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  1. #1
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    Default 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.
    Watch this story...


    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.


  2. #2
    Forum Member DennisTheMenace's Avatar
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    Instead of making it a "fee", make it a a police issued ticketed fine for disregarding a posted sign. If they don't want to pay, they can take it up with the judge, or lose their license.
    Last edited by DennisTheMenace; 05-17-2005 at 12:44 PM.
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  3. #3
    Forum Member HeavyRescueTech's Avatar
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    I would agree with Dennis. make it a ticket, with the funds going to the fire department.

    or just sue them. if only 19 out of 79 people have paid the fines, then you need to do something, because the other 50 aren't going to pay the fine. don't just threaten legal action, follow up with the threat. to do otherwise would constitute and empty threat, and of course people are just going to ignore it.
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  4. #4
    Forum Member CaptOldTimer's Avatar
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    If they don't pay the fine, then put them in jail for 30 days!

    That should get their attention and send a good message.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

  5. #5
    Forum Member DennisTheMenace's Avatar
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    Originally posted by CaptOldTimer
    If they don't pay the fine, then put them in jail for 30 days!

    That should get their attention and send a good message.
    They have made it a fee, not a fine. Which brings us to the debate over whether or not the fire department should be charging fees in the first place.
    Be for Peace, but don't be for the Enemy!
    -Big Russ

    Learn from the mistakes of others; you won't live long enough to make them all yourself.

    Quote Originally Posted by nyckftbl View Post
    LOL....dont you people have anything else to do besides b*tch about our b*tching?

  6. #6
    Forum Member CaptOldTimer's Avatar
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    Then fire can charge a fee for being on the river if the level is over a fixed level, if the city or county council has made it a law. If they are out there without paying a fee, and do do have their PFD one way or the other, then it is a police matter and they can and should be arrested. Let the judge enforce the law. If they have to be rescued, then they should be made to pay for all the expenses that was incurred for their stupid act.
    Stay Safe and Well Out There....

    Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers

  7. #7
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    To be honest Dennis, the terms fine and fee have been used pretty interchangebly (sp) on this issue so I'm not sure exactly which applies. Also the fine/fee is issued by the City and not the FD per se. The whole issue of the fine/fee here is to act as a deterrent to get people to stop putting themselves and others, like us, in danger unnessecarily. (again, sp) These fines/fees are not there for the primary purpose of fund raising and are not issued to those trapped and requiring rescue through no fault of their own. (ie...stuck in traffic on a flooding roadway)

  8. #8
    Forum Member MemphisE34a's Avatar
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    As a member of a fire department, I would not worry about it and I would not issue the citation, ticket, fine, or fee. If the city wants to issue whatever, let the police do it. Let whatever section of your city government that handles unpaid 'things' worry about the unpaid balances. Here in Memphis, the fire department has for the last 10 years been the highest rated city service, because we are 'the good guys.' We can deal with people for the most part safely and effectively because we do not try to police them - no matter what other activity they might be partaking in. If a situation is violent and a threat to us or civilians is present, we of course notify the police....and that is about it. We don't preach, lecture, unnecessarily involve the police or charge for fire or rescue services. We of course do charge for EMS, but that is an entirely differnt animal. My point is stay 'the good guys.'

    And why worry about it. If one of the people that already owes the city money drives past another baracade, ends up in high water, and requires rescue. The SAFD will be right there doing what they will always do - attempting to save their dumb ***!
    RK
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    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

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