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  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber Firefighter1219's Avatar
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    Default Tallahassee, FL--Local Fire Chief Facing Charges

    Florida's volunteer firefighter of the year faces charges of impersonating a firefighter by forging certified documents, Leon County officials said Monday.

    Michael Copenhaver, 33, chief of the Lake Jackson Volunteer Fire Department, was arrested Saturday at the Leon County Jail and bonded out Sunday, said Lt. Linda Butler, a spokeswoman with the Leon County Sheriff's Office.

    He also was suspended from responding to calls, said Tallahassee Fire Department Chief Tom Quillin.

    Copenhaver could not be reached for comment late Monday.

    This summer, he was named the 2004 Florida Volunteer Firefighter of the Year, given by the Florida State Firefighters' Association. In October 2003, he was chosen as Leon County volunteer firefighter of the year. At that time, he was praised for donating significant amounts of time to training volunteers and responding to calls.

    He joined the Lake Jackson Volunteers in 1996 and became chief in 2002. The position is unpaid. His last known occupation was restaurant manager.

    Quillin said the investigation began after Copenhaver submitted inaccurate firefighting and Emergency Medical Technician training records in November. He submitted the records in order to participate in the Fire Department's incident command system as chief officer. In this post, the leader arrives at the scene, sets up the command, evaluates the situation and decides whether to ask for more backup or to downgrade, Quillin said.

    "His EMT certification was not accurate, and his certifications as firefighter I and II were not accurate," Quillin said.

    The forged EMT certification prompted the Fire Department to notify other agencies.

    According to a police report:

    • The state Department of Health said Copenhaver was not licensed as a Florida EMT and his EMT certification was a forgery.

    • The State Fire Marshal's Office said Dec. 7 that it had no record of Copenhaver being a certified firefighter.

    • Chipola College's director said Dec. 8 that certificates of firefighter I and II that Copenhaver said he had earned were fraudulent.

    • Copenhaver's first responder refresher training in 2002 could not be verified by Tallahassee Community College. His TCC transcript only showed training for weapons of mass destruction.

    Because impersonating a firefighter is a felony charge, Copenhaver can no longer respond to calls, Quillin said. But he has not been removed from his position as chief since the fire department is continuing its investigation, he said.

    Leon County Emergency Management Director Richard Smith said that the six county volunteer departments have a mutual-aid agreement with the city Fire Department. During a fire, volunteer firefighters are managed by city Fire Department officials.

    For volunteer firefighters like Copenhaver, EMT and firefighter I and II certifications are beyond the minimum requirements. Volunteer requirements include a good driving record, a minimum age of 18 and no felony convictions. Once someone joins the volunteer department, they must be trained in a 40-hour volunteer-basic class, Smith said.

    There are no special requirements to be the chief of a volunteer fire department, he said.

    "But each department should check" any certifications submitted by a potential volunteer, he said.

    "We're not going to just let somebody come in without checking the paperwork," he said.

    Chief Robert Robertson of the Chaires-Capitola Volunteer Fire Department said he's rarely had to verify documentation of training since most of his new staff come to the job before they are trained.

    "If what comes out is true, it's a reflection on all volunteer fire departments," he said. "But there's always two sides to every story. I hope there's nothing to it."

    Copyright, the Tallahassee Democrat

    We have mutual-aid with this department. What was he thinking?
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  2. #2
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    Default

    Wow, thats some pretty damning evidence. Its a shame that things like this happen

  3. #3
    Forum Member CaptOldTimer's Avatar
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    Exclamation

    Stuipd is - Stupid does!!!



    What a total idiot!


    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

  4. #4
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    For volunteer firefighters like Copenhaver, EMT and firefighter I and II certifications are beyond the minimum requirements.
    Problem #1. Personally, I believe FF1 should be a requirement.

    they must be trained in a 40-hour volunteer-basic class
    Problem #2. Is 40 hours really enough?

    There are no special requirements to be the chief of a volunteer fire department, he said.
    Problem #3. No requirements?

    He joined the Lake Jackson Volunteers in 1996 and became chief in 2002
    Problem #4. In 6 years he's already the Chief?
    "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?

  5. #5
    makes good girls go bad BLSboy's Avatar
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    Default

    As of Feb. 2005, ALL Fla VFDs MUST have everyone a minimum of CFR-D and FF 1 in order to be operated as a Fire Dept. Unfortunatly, there will be many FDs that either can no longer do Fire Dept work, or will be forced to go to a Rescue Squad mode.
    AJ, MICP, FireMedic
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    This message has been made longer, in part from a grant from the You Are a Freaking Moron Foundation.

  6. #6
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    As far as the FF1 cert goes, the language reads (in part):

    Training Requirements For Volunteer Firefighters Under 4A-62
    June 24, 2003
    Florida statute 633.820,
    1. Volunteer firefighters must have the Florida Firefighter One course (160 hours including
    EMS First Responder and Hazardous Materials Awareness).
    3. Another change to the initial proposal is the definition of an “exclusionary” or “hot” zone.
    Defined as “the area immediately around the incident where serious threat of harm exists,
    inclusive of the collapse zone for a structure fire. Entry into that zone would require the use
    of breathing apparatus; protective clothing and/or specialized training required under
    Volunteer. This also allows volunteers to be used that are not physically capable or not
    trained for interior firefighting training to respond and be of assistance in non-suppression
    support roles.

    So, we had been over this and over this at our dept, and according to our leaderships interp. not EVERY person on the dept MUST be FF1 certified. However, if your not, you will not be allowed to respond to structure fires (in short) because the chance would be very real you would end up in the hot zone.

    It is however, STRONGLY encouraged to take the FF1 class when it is offered.

  7. #7
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Rescue Squad mode.
    Just curious on what this is?
    "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?

  8. #8
    MembersZone Subscriber Firefighter1219's Avatar
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    Default

    Our department went through this delema a while back. We went ahead and had everyone take the FF I class so that we would not have to worry about it in the future. Everyone is also certified first responders.

    Our SOPs haven't yet been changed to reflect the new certification requirements, but they will basically mirror what the state has set forth in the statutes.
    TO/EMT CVFD (1219)
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  9. #9
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    Default please keep us updated

    on the outcome of this case.

    I find it funney someone who realy is a Firefighter could be convicted of "persenating a FF"

    Would be very enterested in the final outcome I sapose he will get comuinty service, which also is a joke as aperently he is volunteering now.

  10. #10
    MembersZone Subscriber Firefighter1219's Avatar
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    I sapose he will get comuinty service
    I certainly hope he gets more than that, seeing how those offenses probably qualify as felonies.

    I find it funney someone who realy is a Firefighter could be convicted of "persenating a FF"
    Well, it's not so much that he wasn't a firefighter, it's that he wasn't certified to the level that he claimed to be. He was also impersonating a State of Florida EMT.

    I will keep up with this series of events, and post more when it is available.
    TO/EMT CVFD (1219)
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