Water Rescue fines left unpaid
A little background info first. We have a huge problem down here in San Antonio with people driving into moving water and thus needing rescue. San Antonio is a flood prone area so barricades are erected at low water crossings to keep drivers out. People continued to drive around the barricades and get into dangerous situations so the City started issuing fines for doing this. Despite a large scale public campaign "Turn around don't drown" the problem remains....and fines issued are still largely unpaid. Does your FD have these problems, how are they handled?
Unpaid High Water Rescue Fees
LAST UPDATE: 5/17/2005 7:43:31 AM
Posted By: Holly Whisenhunt
This story is available on your cell phone at mobile.woai.com.
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We watch them on TV except these dramas and heroes are real. Firefighters risking their own lives to save those who decided to drive through flooded streets.
But News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooter Brian Collister discovered once the waters recede the fire department is sometimes left high and dry.
The afternoon of August 30, 2001 was a busy day for San Antonio Firefighters. Sky News 4 captured a dangerous rescue live as it unfolded in Leon Creek. We watch as two firefighters fight for their lives as the cold current sucks them under.
San Antonio Firefighter Lt. Nim Kidd, who also helped in the rescue, watched as the firefighters went under, "You know on TV it seems like it's happening in such slow motion and out there on the banks its like get out get out get out!"
Fortunately the story had a happy ending. The firefighters swept down stream were pulled to safety, and James and Evelyn Ivy were rescued from their flooded van.
"At first it didn't seem like it was going to be difficult to cross,” says Evelyn Ivy, “but then the water started coming into the vehicle, so we immediately called 911..."
On dry land the driver, James Ivy, takes the blame saying, “It was a mistake on my part, plain and simple.”
While he admitted he shouldn't have driven into the high water, Ivy complained there were no barricades up. Because of that Ivy refused to pay the $400 dollar per person rescue fee.
That was four years ago, and when the Trouble Shooters caught up with them the Ivy’s still owed $800 dollars.
Collister:”I'm Brian Collister with the Trouble Shooters. We're trying to find out why you haven't paid your swift water rescue fine yet?”
James Ivy: "My wife's been working on it and I have no comment other than that for you gentleman, I'm at work. Thank you."
Collister: "How come you haven't paid it?" Ivy: "Sir I have nothing else to say to you I'm at work sir.”
Collister: "Those firefighters worked pretty hard to rescue you why wouldn't you just pay the fine?” Ivy: "Thank you sir."
The Trouble Shooters discovered Ivy isn't the only one not paying up. During the 2000 floods firefighters risked their lives using a ladder truck to pluck seven people, including three young children, from the rooftop of a submerged car.
Five years later the driver, Jesse Zarita, still owes his $400 dollar fee.
In fact a lot of people owe for swift water rescues! Records obtained from the city show over the past 5 years only 19 out of 79 people have paid their rescue fees. Leaving the city owed almost $24,000 dollars. Assistant Fire Chief Carl Wedige has this message for those leaving fire fighters high and dry, “We are pursuing those and we'll do what it takes to get that (fee) collected.” And if it were up to Lt. Kidd the fee wouldn’t be $400 but $4,000 thousand dollars.
"I couldn't even begin to fathom on what it would feel like to lose a crew member at a water rescue,” says Kidd "but I guarantee you it would be worth to me a lot more than $400 dollars."
Kidd says the next time you have the choice to drive through water, “Turn around don't drown save yourself, save your family, save your vehicle, save your checkbook, and you just might end up saving a firefighter one day."
Since our investigation started Evelyn Ivy contacted the Trouble Shooters. She says she and her husband made their first payment last Friday (May 13th), and have made arrangements with SAFD to pay their entire fee.
In the meantime SAFD will continue contacting people to remind them to pay up, if they don't they could face legal actions.
Learn more about the city’s “Turn Around Don’t Drown” safety campaign.