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  1. #1
    Forum Member MIKEYLIKESIT's Avatar
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    Default N.J. Fire Departments sued

    I just got done looking at the article about the 6 fire departments being sued by a trucking outfit. What a classic case of "Blame someone else". I hope that the good people of the Garden State see this for what it is, the fire departments counter-sue for defamation and this lawyer loses his pants.


  2. #2
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    Here's the article. I can't post on this.

    6 fire squads sued in Morris
    Lawsuit says foam should have been used in 2001 crash
    By Peggy Wright, Daily Record

    Six Morris County fire departments that responded in June 2001 to fight a massive gasoline fire caused by the collision of tractor-trailers on Route 80 are being sued for alleged "gross negligence" for initially dousing flames with water instead of foam.

    Five volunteer departments, their municipalities, Picatinny Arsenal Fire Department and the arsenal itself have been named as third-party defendants in a lawsuit filed by two entities already being sued by the state as well as by a truck driver involved in the June 22, 2001, crash.

    "It's like no good deed goes unpunished. I think the claim is specious," said attorney John Dorsey, counsel for the Joint Insurance Fund that covers eight of the 12 defendants.

    The new lawsuit assigns another layer of finger-pointing for the 5 a.m. crash that crippled a 4-mile stretch of the interstate from Parsippany to Denville, forcing motorists onto secondary roads. The roadway was restored to normal traffic flow in four months at a cost of more than $6 million to the state.

    The complaint, filed in Superior Court, Morristown, names the fire departments from Picatinny, Boonton Township, Denville, Parsippany, Rockaway Township and Rockaway. It was filed by attorney John R. Geraghty, who represents Flexi-Van Leasing Inc., owner of the chassis of a trailer involved in the collision, and Howland Hook Container Terminal, which leased the chassis.

    The complaint alleges that the fire departments should be held responsible for initially fighting a gasoline fire with water instead of foam, causing it to intensify, spread and travel down the highway to a bridge where flames caused extensive damage to the bridge abutment and highway.

    Firefighters "knew or should have known that gasoline will float on the surface of water, and that deploying a stream of water on a gasoline fire would result in the spread of the fire on top of the water," the complaint said.

    Officials and fire chiefs in most of the municipalities could not be reached Wednesday or did not return calls for comment. Frank Misurelli, spokesman for Picatinny Arsenal, said he could not comment. Rockaway Township Mayor Louis S. Sceusi and Rockaway Councilman John Willer Jr. said they were fully supportive of their fire departments.

    "I have every confidence in our fire department and support them 100 percent," Sceusi said.

    Several fire experts said that it was easy to second-guess responses to a tremendous fire. Dousing gasoline flames with water is not wrong, they said, but it is not the ideal if foam is available.

    "There are so many variables to consider when you arrive at a scene. The key is sizing up the situation, what resources you have on hand, and evaluating all the conditions," said Steve George, programs manager for the Oklahoma Fire Service Training, a state agency affiliated with the International Fire Safety Training Association.

    Jack Alderton, Morris County's fire mutual aid coordinator, said that choices of how to fight a blaze depend on resource availability, whether anyone is believed to be trapped and even the direction the wind is blowing.

    "Everything depends on conditions," Alderton said.

    Several lawsuits relate to the crash, including the state's complaint filed 11 months ago against three truck drivers and their companies to recoup the $6 million repair cost. The state's lawsuit contended that driver negligence and tailgating led to the collision between three tractor-trailers, one hauling gasoline.

  3. #3
    Forum Member MIKEYLIKESIT's Avatar
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    Without getting into specifics George,Do you think it will be difficult to prove "gross negligence" ? I am not familiar with the incident, but even if the tactics were not the best (not saying they weren't)I would assume that it would be hard to prove that the fire departments acted negligently.

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    I'm sorry, but I cannot post on this.

  5. #5
    Forum Member PAVolunteer's Avatar
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    Negligence as defined in Blackís Law Dictionary (5th Edition):

    Negligence is the failure to use such care as a reasonably prudent and careful person would use under similar circumstances; it is the doing of some act which a person of ordinary prudence would not have done under the circumstances or failure to do what a person of ordinary prudence would have done under similar circumstances. Conduct which falls below the standard established by law for the protection of others is unreasonable risk of harm; it is a departure from the conduct expectable of a reasonably prudent person under like circumstances.

    Black's Law Dictionary defines gross negligence as "the purposeful failure to discharge a duty owed in reckless disregard of the consequences as they might affect another's life or property."

    Crystal clear now, eh?

    Stay Safe

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    Forum Member fftrainer's Avatar
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    If they had sat around watching it burn while they waited for enough foam to suppress this fire, my guess is that the lawsuit would instead blame the fd's for doing nothing.

    You do the best with what you've got at the exact time not with what you could have had if x, y & z all came together perfectly in the split-second you needed it.

    The bottom line here is that had these trucking outfits properly maintained their vehicles and controled the operators of their vehicles to keep them from tailgating, etc, this accident would never have happened and therefore the fire department would never have had to be there. Keep passing the blame boys!

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    We tryed for a High pressur foam truck last year--FEMA didn't think we needed it No VFDs in our area carry enough foam for this type of fire.

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    Truckie SPFDRum's Avatar
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    Ahh, the easy life of an armchair quaterback...
    A few unanswered questions in the article:
    1] At the time of the initial response, was there a viable rescue opportunity that may have required water for victim protection and/or rescuer protection?
    2] Were there exposures that needed immediate protection to limit collateral damage?
    3] Could the tanker have ruptured or been compromised below the liquid line causing the fuel to spread? Not fire fighting water. Again increasing exposure concerns.
    4] Did the responding departments have enough foam to successfully extinguish the fire once foam operations started?

    I agree with MIKEYLIKESIT, the carriers Lawyers are looking at anything to prevent them from having to pay the full bill.
    My posts reflect my views and opinions, not the organization I work for or my IAFF local. Some of which they may not agree. I.A.C.O.J. member
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    I can't comment on the event because I wasn't there nor is that my area of specialty. However, I do think we need to heed this as a wake up call. We are going to see more and more where we are being held accountable for our actions. No longer will what we do on a fire scene be blindly followed as correct. Insurace companies are looking for way to minimize their losses and payouts and will therefore be holding fire departments accountable for deviation from "recognized" standards and guidelines. If we do more damage by our actions than what would have been done had we followed these standards or guidelines, then we are going to be monetarily held responsible.
    If our actions are responsible and defensible then we shouldn't worry about litigation. If they aren't ...........well, the consequences speak for themselves.

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    LadyCapn you said a mouthfull you fight with what you have, and someone comes along and ask why we didn't use the more morden equipment that is being used in the next town? There isn't enough foam in our county' or equipment to use it to put out that kind of fire.

    Stay safe

  11. #11
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Also, not there, but some thoughts...

    They claim damage due to water usage allowing the burning gas to spread. Would it have been better to let it burn in place as opposed to "we have to put it out"? Maybe only water to protect exposures and not fight the fire? Is it not better to sometimes, let the fire burn (and let the product burn off) instead of fighting it? Would it have been possible to direct the flow of water and burning gas to prevent it's spread?

    I am not judging/questioning their tactics, just having some thoughts and looking for some suggestions. Any Monday morning quarterbacking that we would do would be the same as what these lawyers are doing, so I think we should stay away from that.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    A rescue was made from one of the trucks,Maybe Tanker can say more about this.

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    not having been there I can only say this ........we have no class "B" foam at all and some minimal class "A" foam. We could call a local refinery that is in a neighboring county and see if they would respond but we have no true mutual aid agreement with them. So then if we call them who would foot that bill ? I am not sure if the refinery could bill (or us for that matter) under the SARA Title Act .........or what ...so I am sure I would either have to let it burn and protect exposures or if there was a person trapped attempt some rescue with what resources I have.
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    Truckie SPFDRum's Avatar
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    I agree, the "let it burn" option seems to be the logical choice. But...
    I can't speak for the departments involved, nor do I know the logistics of the entire scenario. But let me run this past everybody. Many of our bridges, highways, and ditches are a convenient place to bury all manor of stuff; IE, fiber optic comm cables, high current electrical carriers, natural gas pipelines and etc. Could any of that been a concern for the IC? A while back, some urban campers started a large fiber optic cable on fire under a bridge, I believe the total cost of the repair and lost service came close to the 6 mill mark. Just a though.
    CaptainHammer noted a rescue was made from one of the vehicles, there would be one logical reason to use water initially.
    Again, armchair quarterbacking is easy...
    My posts reflect my views and opinions, not the organization I work for or my IAFF local. Some of which they may not agree. I.A.C.O.J. member
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    Forum Member ThNozzleman's Avatar
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    Several fire experts said that it was easy to second-guess responses to a tremendous fire. Dousing gasoline flames with water is not wrong, they said, but it is not the ideal if foam is available.
    Come on; we've all fought gasoline fires or seen them on training films. I don't know what school these "experts" went to or how much experience they've had, but putting water directly on a burning gasoline is at best useless, especially one this large. Worst case scenario could find firefighters pushing burning gasoline into the sewers, causing fires blocks or even miles away. DOT 406 fuel tankers made of aluminum are designed to "burn away" as the fire progresses. If there is a good amount of content left, pouring water on it will cause the level to rise, spilling burning fuel everywhere. If these guys were merely trying to protect exposures and the run-off flowed into the gasoline, that's a little different. But if they were dumping thousands of gallons of water directly into the burning product, then they probably made the situation worse. They should have let it burn in place and protect exposures as well as possible. Do we all carry enough foam to fight such a fire? Not likely. Of course, many of us don't carry much of the equipment we need to do our jobs safely because of complete IDIOTS running the cities and states we live in. If your department doesn't carry enough foam or have it available through mutual aid or some other avenue to fight a standard gasoline tanker fire, you need to resolve this problem. Until then, let the gasoline tankers burn. It was stated earlier that people would complain if firefighters didn't attempt to do something. Well, we can only do what we are trained and equipped to do; anything else can get us hurt or killed. If this department did not have the immediate means of containing and controlling this fire, then the "powers that be" need to spend less time on the golf course and more time planning for the safety and well-being of their community and their firefighters instead of blaming somebody else for a problem that they've know could happen for a long time.

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    Somebody call Satan and ask him if it's cold down there ... I actually agree w/ Nozzleman .

    Stay Safe

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    I am new hear and to the fire world. But use what you have there, sounds pretty good to me. If they could prove that they were holding for a foam truck at the time at tryed to keep , the fire sustaind to one area as long as they could , I think they would be safe, if not the IC should anwswer for the call he made.

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    I can't really be one to point fingers or say much on this subject because I don't know enough about it.

    But...

    As for the lawsuit, this is just another case of America's fine judicial system at work. You can sue anyone, for anything. It's rediculous. The fire departments involved should counter-sue the drivers, and their companies for endangering the lives of the firemen, polluting the planet, and making everyone late for work. Why doesn't ANYONE take responsibility for their own actions anymore? Those five fire departments were not the cause of the fire... they were the ones that put it out. Did anyone see any lawyers out there throwing foam on the flames?

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    Forum Member ThNozzleman's Avatar
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    I am new hear and to the fire world. But use what you have there, sounds pretty good to me.
    I'll take into consideration the first part of your quote. But, "use what you have" is NOT the best thing for a fire department to do. As you progess in your training, you'll learn there are things you simply DO NOT put water on; certain burning metals, chemicals, or gasoline and most other burning fuels. Gasoline is a nonpolar substance; water is polar. Also, dumping a a CO2 extinguisher on burning metals will bring you a nasty suprise. Although an extreme analogy, would you pour gasoline on a burning house if it were "all you had?" Sometimes, putting "the wet stuff on the red/green/orange/yellow/purple/white/blue stuff" is not the the thing to do and could even get you killed.

    Those five fire departments were not the cause of the fire... they were the ones that put it out.
    They may have not been responsible for the initial fire, but if they were pouring water on a gasoline fire, they could very well be responsible for the spread of the fire and the damages caused by this action.
    Last edited by ThNozzleman; 04-13-2003 at 09:52 AM.

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    Forum Member ThNozzleman's Avatar
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    Somebody call Satan and ask him if it's cold down there ... I actually agree w/ Nozzleman .
    Heh heh heh...
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