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  1. #81
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    Jul 2004


    Sorry folks. I think this post has become a mess of people who haven't read the articles and some who don't understand the real issues. Here are the issues as I see them:
    1.) His claim was not for physical injury, but rather emotional distress. PPE and equipment does not prevent this to my knowledge. It also makes me think he may have suffered the emotional injury whether he had helped with the suppression, or had just been watching the concert.
    2.) His insurance SHOULD cover him as most of us get coverage for events outside of work. The money is in question is the premiums (correct me if im wrong).
    3.) Being hurt on the job carries many things with it. Could he sue W.Warwick for not following NFPA guidelines as an employee? It is possible if they treat him as if he were an employee at the time. As much as I am for helping others, being in a different jurisdiction is about equal with being in a different state- local taxpayers should not pay for my injuries (god forbid) if I try to help someone while on vacation in Hawaii.
    4.) Brothers are there to help, and helping is sometimes something that comes at a price. As brothers we should be able to come up with the money for the premiums

    It's a lose lose situation! I am sure everyone involved wishes this man no harm, but it's simply not black and white
    Last edited by orangehopeful; 01-20-2006 at 08:15 PM.

  2. #82
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    Sep 2001
    No. Providence R.I. : Land of the "How ya doins"


    I will throw my 2 cents worth into the ring. I was there that night. I saw the mass confusion. I saw victims walking around aimlessly because there were more of them than responders at one point. I saw the building fully involved and bodies stacked in the doorway. These are images that I will never ever forget. Do they haunt me? No. I'm not detached but I cope well with crisis. I got there about 5 minutes into the incident, pretty much saw most of the gruesome things that Steve Burgess did, but his perspective is much different from mine. He saw the incident from the beginning. He lives with the knowledge that he narrowly cheated death that night. He did what he thought was right, WWFD Engine 4 and Tower 1 pulled up with a total of 4 guys, he worked there, he knows their limitations. Pulling up to a well involved building with 4 guys is borderline criminal, we all know that. Had I been in his shoes I too would have been right there with him. In fact I almost was there with a group of friends, but a wake call quashed those plans. When I got there the WWPD pretty much cleared everyone out. I got as close as I could, got the pictures to prove it. The City of Cranston is a very screwed up place. Years of mismanagement have been exploited by their whacko of a mayor for his own personal gain. Had this been in a prior administration this would have been taken care of with an MOU. The Mayor has done nothing but attacked the Cranston Fire Dept. since taking office. He has attempted to reduce their manpower, currently 6 Engines, 3 Ladders, 1 Heavy Rescue, 4 EMS Rescues and a DC to unsafe levels. They protect 75,000 residents, 5,000 inmates and a garden variety of high hazards spread over 25+ square miles. He charged the union for using equipment during an informational exercise. He verbally abused a firefighters wife at a city council meeting after she went there to inquire why the city cut her husband's benefits after he was broad sided by a drunk driver, on duty, in apparatus responding to a confirmed building fire. Nice Guy.... He is currently running for Senate, he is hated by his own party!!! The RNC is financing an anti-Laffey campaign. West Warwick shouldn't be on the hook, they got enough problems of their own with this mess. Chief Hall is a former Asst. Chief in Cranston, he knows the politics of it all. Basically this was a one shot deal, a tragedy that is a once in a lifetime incident. The City should at least make Steve Burgess whole, he sprung in to action without a second thought or hesitation. Perhaps something he did saved even one life. One life that you can't put a price on...
    "I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a fireman. The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we know the work which a fireman has to do believe that his is a noble calling."

    Edward F. Croker
    Chief 1899-1911
    Fire Dept. City of New York

    HOOK N' CAN of the I.A.C.O.J.

  3. #83
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    Sep 2003

    Default Why

    Why should he be compensated? He acted on his own, in a jurisdiction that he was not employed in, without proper PPE, and when he was done, he refused to be treated and or evaluated. I hate to say this but he probably loses 5 mpg's due to all the firefighter stickers in the window of his truck!

    Look, I do not think what he did was not heroic and, or would I have not done the same. But, I do know that had I been involved I would have not only sought some after care, but I would have made sure that I went through some stress debriefing. I am also surprised that who ever, if any, ran their CISM did not seek out this guy.

    I think it is sh*tty that the city, or his department did not offer to take care of him. I just wish him the best of luck.

  4. #84
    HNFC FF/President mdoddsjffhnfc's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Camden County, NJ


    i remember the first day of Firefighter 1 at the fire academy. Our chief instructor said that upon receiving our certification as Firefighters, we had a duty to act. If we came across an emergency, we should stop and do what we can. Since my graduation in december, i've stopped for 2 MVAs outside of my local (FD or Police not on scene yet) and did what i could. Sure, an MVA is different from that happened to this brother, but it is still an emergency. I think that he and the city should work together to find some kind of comprimise. Sure, he should have sought some help right after the incident, but who knows what was goin through his head.

    hopefully everything works out well for all parties

    Stay Safe!
    Firefighter, Volunteering since Oct 2001

    CCFA 05-04, best overall class for 2005
    "GOOD GAME!"

  5. #85
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    Dec 1998
    Pea Ridge, Arkansas


    If a Cop was off duty, and witnessed a robbery, took action, got injured, and needed medical attention... you wanna bet he'd be taken care of?
    Chief Frank Rizzio
    Pea Ridge Fire Dept.
    Pea Ridge AR. 72751

  6. #86
    MembersZone Subscriber ChiefReason's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    Illinois-where pertnear is close enough!


    Why should he be compensated?
    Because he assisted a very short handed fire department the night of a very large disaster. He had the training and most of all, he had the heart and the courage to act. If it isn't work comp, then it should be group health with the city wiping out the deductible. If they don't want to do either, then maybe the Union can take care of him and subrogate back to the city. If that can't be done, then at the VERY LEAST, a benefit in his honor should be undertaken. And the public made very aware of how the mayor and city did NOT act for or in the best interests of Steve Burgess.
    He acted on his own,
    This statement is very perplexing. In another thread, a fire department is being flogged to death because they had firefighters at the scene of a fatal fire who, in the eyes of many didn't do enough to facilitate rescue or suppression. Burgess did what came naturally for him. His department WAS dispatched. The fact that he was there well ahead of them for whatever reason should have no bearing on his ability or right to benefits. I am confident he would prevail at trial if it were to go that route. Acted on his own...He ACTED in the best tradition of firefighting without regard for his personal safety, he acted when it was clear that his help was needed and though he wasn't asked to help, his heart and spirit told him to answer the call. HE did the right thing. HE made the right decision. His CITY has been wrong ever since.
    in a jurisdiction that he was not employed in, without proper PPE,
    Doesn't matter. Once his department was dispatched to the call, he could have been standing there in his underwear and it doesn't change the fact that he was from then on, on the clock for the City of Cranston at the request of West Warwick, so if a mutual aid agreement exists between the two, Steve Burgess was injured while engaged in fire operations. And not having on proper PPE does not preclude anyone from receiving worker's compensation benefits. It is a "no fault" system, so unless Burgess intentionally injured himself, he is entitled to benefits.
    and when he was done, he refused to be treated and or evaluated.
    So what? In Illinois, you have 45 days from the date of injury to file notice of an injury. Again, the fact that he didn't treat right away does not disqualify him from being entitled to benefits.
    I hate to say this but he probably loses 5 mpg's due to all the firefighter stickers in the window of his truck!
    And this, you shouldn't have said. It has NOTHING to do with the discussion at hand. And you are wrong for saying it.
    Steve Burgess needs help. From somewhere. The fire service has a history and tradition of taking care of its own. This case is no different.
    It's no wonder that we have firefighters leaving the profession every day because in some cases, the only thing that they get for their hard work and dedication is a kick in the arse from pencil necks whose idea of an emergency is that their cable TV is down. Put them in a real emergency and they would run away screaming like little girls. They have no business making decisions in public, let alone public safety.
    I hope Steve Burgess takes it to court. Where he will prevail.
    I will take bets on it.
    If a Cop was off duty, and witnessed a robbery, took action, got injured, and needed medical attention... you wanna bet he'd be taken care of?
    Not in the city of Cranston. I'll take that bet!
    Visit www.iacoj.com
    Remember Bradley Golden (9/25/01)
    RIP HOF Robert J. Compton(ENG6511)

  7. #87
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    May 2003
    FireFighter/First Responder wakulla county florida

    Default all call 24/7

    let me get this rollin, number one in most states if you are known to be a prfessional in any branch be it police, ems, or fire dept. and you fail to act during an emergency you can be charge with failure to respond and derliction of duties and responsabilities second of all that is the difference between REAL FIRE FIGHTERS ( PAID AND VOLIE ALIKE) we are always on duty firefighter who ( mostly paid) who always attack us volies are the ones who would not have run in or helped but watched and commented but regardless when you belong to any fire dept you should be covered by acccidental death and dismembership. and and truth be told if he dies int hat fire he would have been listed as a LODD and his family would ahve gotten full benifits WE WOULD HAVE SEEN TO THAT tot he city her serves think about how you treat those who might have to respond to one of your houses one day for you or some one you love!!!!!!

    god bless the 343 and worcester 6

  8. #88
    the 4-1-4 Jasper 45's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    ...A great place, on a Great Lake


    Someone should be picking up the tab. West Warwick probably, but I belive his own city has a stake as they were there mutual aid. So, would they have covered him if he had waited till his own department showed up? This whole thing stinks, and a brother is left out in the cold for trying to do the right thing.

    Dave, I am not picking on you, your quote was just the first one I found to help me post.

    I honestly do not know what the answer to this scenario is. We just have had the situation in my own department in which an off-duty member helped an accident victim, who happened to be trapped. Our off-duty member was injured, and because of that injury missed 11 shifts. (The injury was somewhat serious)
    The city chose to have this member use his or her own sick leave, as opposed to duty-injury pay. This incident occurred inside of the city, itself.

    Should a member be entitled to “line of duty” benefits, while off duty? I do not know, but the potential for abuse is very high. The questions in this case, for which I do not have the answers, are; what compensation is in question here? Specifically, is the firefighter looking for duty disability pay? While he was recovering, was he collecting ordinary sick leave pay?
    What is not making sense to me is the real dispute. From my perspective, he would be able to use his sick time while recovering. To me, as it is in my department, if you are injured while on duty, you fall into the “duty injury” category. This is 80% of your salary, tax-free. If you are to become injured at any other time, and should you miss shifts, as a result you would need to use your own personal sick days. Injury definition has been extended to cover emotional, and mental issues, as well as physical inuries associated with the job.

    Situations like this are why we have insurance, and negotiate for sick leave days. Should he have acted in the manner he did? I think that he acted heroically. I definitely think he went beyond what he needed to; those pictures I saw were horrific, even devastating, and I was not there. I cannot imagine what it would be like to live with those images burned into my memory.
    Last edited by jasper45; 01-21-2006 at 03:20 PM.

  9. #89
    the 4-1-4 Jasper 45's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    ...A great place, on a Great Lake


    Quote Originally Posted by rifireguy
    The Cranston union and Fire Firefighter Burgess went after the wrong municipality.

    You are wrong with this statement. The firefighter was under no obligation to work, he was under no requirement to obey orders from anyone on the first due department. He did those actions because it was the right thing to do, as a person.
    West Warrick is under no financial obligation, legally. That is a sad fact, but it is a fact. I am sure everything was in a mass chaos at that scene; I can only imagine what it was like.
    The man is an employee of the city of Cranston, which is where his duty benefits lie. If he can’t work as a firefighter then he needs to work that out with Cranston.

  10. #90
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    Oct 2005


    Why should he be compensated? He acted on his own, in a jurisdiction that he was not employed in, without proper PPE, and when he was done, he refused to be treated and or evaluated. I hate to say this but he probably loses 5 mpg's due to all the firefighter stickers in the window of his truck!

    Nice...give someone a dig on your first post here.

    By the way, I know Cranston just well enough to take an even better educated guess -- if you showed up with a truck like your zinger, your Captain would just hand you a razor blade scraper and walk away without saying a word.

    A) This thread has become a mess

    B) I'm amazed how many people have drunk the kool-aid of municipal cheapskates.

    Those who know me know I can be stickler on budgets. I've had people complement me by saying they'd never want to have to sit across a negotiating table from me

    Maybe I don't know much.

    But I do know the first part of the solution is not to think the problem lies with "Oh, he didn't have PPE!" or "Oh, he didn't go to the hospital for a checkup!"

    Those are things that a half-assed municipal (or insurance) attorney says.

    If you truly have laws and regulations that penalize it -- and not just attornies who aren't skillful enough to work around it -- work to change your laws.

    Stuff happens, and we can't always anticpate everything, just plan and take reasonable actions.

    So yeah, if you respond to a call after you're paged to respond and don't have the gear, we have a problem to talk about.

    If a plane nose plants in front of you while you're out mowing the lawn, **** happens, you react.

    Legally, it's called the Reasonable Man. Is it reasonable to bring turnout gear to a concert? No. Is it reasonable to expect someone who just happens to be in the right place and time decide not to act by citing some regulation? No. His actions where not excessively risky or dumb -- we're not talking seeing three people down in a manhole and leaping in (a situation a trained firefighter would be expected to recognize the grave hazard). We're talking about reasonable risks taken in an extreme and unusual situation.

    What should be done?

    Instead of bitching that it's not your department's problem, or the individual was wrong for not wearing PPE, or following some policy...

    We set a goal to develop the legislation that:
    a) Idemnifies bona-fide, active firefighters / EMTs / Police and similiar public safety officials throughout the State they are employeed (volunteer) in, and throughout any State with which there is a Interstate Mutual Aid Agreement in place.

    b) That the triggers are:
    1) The incident is a "moment of oppurtonity" event -- you're either an eye witness to it, or some person looking for help seeks you out. You are not following calls on the scanner, or responding as a member of another organization, etc...you just happen to be there.

    2) The incident primarily involves property other than your own or persons outside of your immediate family (i.e. you are providing a public service)

    3) You are taking actions consistent with your normal "job"

    4) You are acting within the command structure of the community you are in at the earliest reasonable time -- if you come across an MCI with the FD already there, you ask them if they want your assistance; if you start working at an accident before they arrive, when the FD gets there you ask the officer if he'd like your continued assistance.

    C) Since the event is a moment of oppurtonity and therefore couldn't reasonably be foreseen, anticipated, planned for, etc it's recognized that there will frequently be variations from standard operation procedures -- since by definition, we're no longer standard. So it's recognized that normal expectations in many areas -- such as alcohol consumption, PPE, Body-Substance Isolation, etc are likely to be compromised and therefore are not to be penalized.

    Financial considerations should not stop someone from helping when they are in the right place, right time. Most especially when that someone has special training, skills, and experience above the level of ordinary civilians.

    For the relatively small amount of money we're talking, I really don't care if it's a "Mandate" that says your employeer pays, or if the State takes care of it directly or reimburses your employeer.

    For those who think this would be abused, the person who would abuse this would be a far bigger liability in their own department where they're running calls and being exposed to danger on every shift -- so I really don't think you'll see much abuse from these once-in-a-blue-moon events.
    Last edited by Dalmatian190; 01-21-2006 at 04:57 PM.

  11. #91
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    Jan 2006

    Thumbs up A Firefighter Is a Firefighter 24/7

    I personally belive that all firefighters are firefighters for one of two reasons. One reason is fore the fact of knowing that you can help people and fore that felling that yo can be called on in the time of some one else's need and they know that you will try your hardest to do what you can to help them. but then there are firefighters who do it for the money which i might add is a joke B/C we put our lives on the line every day and what little bit of compinsation that we do get but that is neither her nor there. That fireman was a fire man i would like to work besidei n a fire because he does it for the love for the job and nothing else. When we all took our 11-11 thur 11-31 or the new age class 1152 and 1153 we were all taught that our lives or first we did not ask to come in to the situatuion we chose to respond to the call for help that makes aus all firefighters 24/7

    when we pray to our heavenly father we ask fore help and guindence and that is what we are suppose to do

    Yall need to read this story

    My little girl looked startled
    as a fire engine passed in haste,
    And from my rear-view mirror,
    I saw the expression on her face.

    Her eyes were opened wide
    filled with curiosity and fear.....
    She said, "mommy, what is that big truck
    with the loud noise that I hear?"

    I explained that the "truck" carried
    men and women who's only aim
    was to help someone in danger
    though they may not know his name.

    She said, "mommy, aren't those the ones
    who wear the shiny hats?"
    And I said, "yes honey, that's right....
    but it means much more than that."

    Those people are trained and dedicated
    and many times have shown....
    that to save the life of someone else,
    they'll often risk their own.

    Then my other child joined in
    with a bright inquisitive stare.
    "If the people they help are strangers,
    then what would make them care?"

    Her question made me stop and think,
    what are the rewards of being "brave?"
    Is it the smiles on the faces
    of the children they may save?

    Or the beholden expression of a man
    standing beside his wife
    watching firefighters battling to save
    the house he'd worked for all his life?

    Or pulling someone out
    of a burning house or car?
    There's a memory like that for them
    behind every burn or scar.
    The word "courage" is described as:
    the strength to withstand fear
    and firefighters use that courage
    many times in their career.

    So, to answer her question honestly
    and explain why they're so "daring,"
    I said...."they're very special people
    with an uncommon sense of caring."

  12. #92
    MembersZone Subscriber ChiefReason's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    Illinois-where pertnear is close enough!


    Well put.
    Unfortunately, in this day and age, there is no "reasonableness".
    The truth is, no one is going to pay until they are FORCED to pay.
    So, get an attorney, request a jury by trial, settle in for a long fight and in the end, a check from the city will be written along with a half-fast and empty apology.
    It's crazy that we can have legislation that says, if you have been a firefighter for at least five years and you get cancer, we can PRESUME that you got it from the job. That, in my mind, means you are a FF 24/7.
    With Burgess's case, nothing has to be presumed. He was there. He acted. He performed at his skill level. He got hurt. So, in some manner, from some source, be it work comp or group health, he should not have to pay a dime for what happened to him.
    Visit www.iacoj.com
    Remember Bradley Golden (9/25/01)
    RIP HOF Robert J. Compton(ENG6511)

  13. #93
    MembersZone Subscriber
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    May 1999
    Here, There, Everywhere


    double post...deleted.
    Last edited by FFFRED; 01-21-2006 at 09:30 PM.

  14. #94
    MembersZone Subscriber
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    May 1999
    Here, There, Everywhere


    Three questions:

    A. Was this fireman ordered by an officer of any department to do any fire related task as in "grab a line"?

    B. Aren't we held accountable to our actions while off duty?

    C. Aren't cops always cops and bound by duty day or night?

    This should be a no brainer a brother did the right thing as we always do and is seriously f*cked up and he should be taken care of. I also can't believe some supposed brothers are arguing for these Mutts. There should be nothing but support for this brother on this site...instead we see azzholes and cowards on here supporting these POS suits in city hall. What a wonderful place your job must be! BMA-IGM


    PS-On a side note two things. A number of our members have recieved medals for actions performed while off duty.

    And as far as I'm aware if a EMT or Paramedic come upon an accident...they are covered as far as actions as get overtime compesation. The Engine company takes a mark in the journal or report not sure which, that EMT Badge#1234 worked at an incident. The EMT fills out the paper work I imagine when they are back on duty next.

    However both situations occur in the city they are employed...not sure if it is covered statewide.
    Last edited by FFFRED; 01-21-2006 at 09:45 PM.

  15. #95
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    Apr 2004
    Bossier Parrish, Louisiana


    Maybe I'm one of the mutts, but once again, I feel he was acting on his own and not as a firefighter. He did not have a legal duty to respond, however one could easily argue a moral arguement. As he may have also been drinking, that should have disqualified him as a responder even once his own department was dispatched, as I would assume they have a no alcohol on board policy (which many of the posters now saying he was on duty argue for ... so which way do you want it?????). He chose to identify himself as a firefighter ... he chose to assist .. therefore, he needs to accept the concequesnces of his actions as a private citizen. I would have thought no less of him if he chose not to assist as there was no legal obligation to help, especially since he was a part of the incident. It would be nice if Cranston would help him out voluntarily to some degree, but to me, there is no legal obligation.

    According to the department for which I am employed part-time and volunteer at, we have no legal duty to act, when we come on a situation outside of our district, and therefore we are not subject to charges of abondonment. According to our chief and guidelines, we do not even have a LEGAL duty to act within our district unless we are being paid, or volunteering in a department vehicle as we are acting in the eyes of the community as a de facto on-duty firefighter at that point, or at the station for a training session or riding out as a volunteer (in the required department uniform .. if in street clothes no legal requirement to respond). All other times we have no LEGAL obligation to respond (this also includes if we pass the scene after a page-out, as volunteers we are never legally "on-duty" and never bound by a LEGAL duty to act). Legal responsibilities outside the district in a department vehicle is currently a question mark which we have been unable to get a firm answer on, so our official policy is you stop and act only if the scene is unattended by any other emergency personnel and once they arrive you disengage yourself as soon as possible. I stop at very few incidents I run into now as the legal issues, especially when in a neighboring city, that has been known to create issues with out of town firefighters stopping at thier unattended scenes where my assistance could only end up causing me or my department problems. I would like to help but it's just not worth the legal risk. The folks responsible for that area, and most of the areas around here, should be arriving shortly, and in 99% of the cases those few minutes will make little or no difference. In this case, obviously the help was needed, but that was a choice he made as a citizen, not a firefighter, as he was not on-duty in his jurisdiction.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 01-21-2006 at 09:53 PM.

  16. #96
    Forum Member ThNozzleman's Avatar
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    Jun 2002
    Jefferson City, TN


    What if a drunk off-duty firefighter does something that gets someone hurt, or killed; is the city supposed to take responsibility for that, too?

  17. #97
    Forum Member
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    Oct 2000
    Gregory, SD


    Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't the fire department own the fire scene as long as they are there? If a West Warwick officer ordered any individual to assist, whether they were a firefighter or not, West Warwick is responsible for any injuries while acting as an "employee" of said officer.

    If West Warwick has a mutual aid agreement with Cranston then the agreement states which department covers any insurance issues. If no written agreement is in place and there is a prior history of mutual aid it reverts to Cranston to cover any of it's resouces, in this case an off-duty firefighter, ordered by West Warwick.

    No other issues matter. The only issue is which department's insurance is responsible for his claims.


  18. #98
    Forum Member MetalMedic's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    The Home of Smucker's Jelly


    Quote Originally Posted by orangehopeful
    Interesting topic! Quick question-

    Where is George? George [or any other PO's] what happens if you get injured while trying to stop the imminent commission of a felony off duty out of district?
    I am in Ohio where there is a State operated Worker's Comp. system. I can tell you that with my department, I can actually be ON DUTY, in uniform and in a marked patrol car... and if I get injured attempting to take a police action outside of the boundaries of my jurisdiction without a formal request for mutual aid from the department having jurisdiction, the Bureau of Worker's Compensation will NOT honor the claim.

    However, if I happen to get into a car accident and get injured on my way to work or on my way home, that is considered job related and BWC will cover that!

    To add my 2 cents... if this person's department were to cover his expenses as a job related injury.. do other problems rise up when you consider that they failed to provide him with proper safety equipment while he was operating on their behalf (which would be established by their covering his expenses as an "on the job" incident)?
    Richard Nester
    Orrville (OH) Fire Dept.

    "People don't care what you know... until they know that you care." - Scott Bolleter

  19. #99
    MembersZone Subscriber ChiefReason's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2001
    Illinois-where pertnear is close enough!


    In this article that I will post here, I think it demonstrates the "fickleness" of a state worker's comp program. It discusses the "two-prong" argument, something some of us have discussed here. But I think since we are discussing work comp and its implications in job injuries, I thought it worth posting: From the Command Post:
    Two-prong test cuts to heart of workers' comp

    Philip C. Stittleburg

    Jan 1, 2003 12:00 PM

    The question of when volunteer firefighters are covered by workers' compensation benefits is one that arises frequently. Obviously, traumatic injuries that occur on the fireground present little difficulty in determining eligibility. However, when the injury takes place elsewhere, the resolution is much less clear. This became evident once again in Halsey-Shedd RFPD v. Randall D. Leopard, Court of Appeals of Oregon, No. A108543 (2002).

    Randall D. Leopard was the second assistant fire chief for the Halsey-Shedd (Ore.) Rural Fire Protection District. The district consists of three stations in three towns. He joined the department in 1995 as a volunteer firefighter and was promoted until he reached the rank of second assistant fire chief in 1997.

    As second assistant chief, he was required to be in command when the first assistant chief and the fire chief were unavailable. Furthermore, on every third weekend he assumed the duty as lead person in charge of responding to emergencies. On those weekends, his shift began Friday at 6 p.m. and ended the following Monday at 6 a.m. His duties included ensuring that proper staffing was available and touring the three fire stations. He also was required to be present during investigations and to respond to every emergency that occurred on those weekends. For these services, he was paid $600 per year.

    On those weekends when he served as lead person, he typically wore a fire department logo shirt and carried his firefighting gear in his vehicle. He also was required to carry two different pagers, both provided by his employer, to receive emergency calls. In addition, when he was in charge he used a fire district truck in place of his own vehicle in case he had to respond to emergencies. The purpose of this arrangement was to ensure that he responded as quickly as possible. He didn't use the truck to transport family members or friends, and when he wasn't using it, the truck was kept at one of the fire stations.

    On Sunday, Jan. 17, 1999, Leopard was on duty and in charge as the lead person. That morning, he was preparing to leave his home to go to church with his family. His wife and son had already started walking to the church, which was two blocks away. He was assisting a friend, who was also leaving his home, with her small child by holding the child while she went back to retrieve something from his home.

    While carrying the child, he began to walk across his dirt-and-gravel driveway toward the fire district truck. Leopard's pager then went off, and he reached down and removed it from its case. It's unclear if the page was work-related because Leopard was permitted to receive personal calls on his pagers. He did not read the number on the pager at that time, and when he later checked it, the number had been erased from the pager's memory. Fire department records showed that no emergency calls came in at the time in question.

    While examining his pager, Leopard stepped onto his left foot and then stepped back on his right foot, at which point he slipped on some dirt and gravel. His foot slid inward and his ankle rolled. Leopard fell to the ground, injuring his lower right leg and ankle. He later specifically acknowledged that his act of reaching for his pager had nothing to do with his fall.

    He received emergency care from members of the fire district who responded to his subsequent call. He was then taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a fracture of the distal fibula. He missed five weeks of work at his full-time employment, and also missed work at the fire district due to the injury.

    On those weekends when he was not serving as the lead person, he typically walked to church with his family. The walk takes approximately two to three minutes. If he had not been walking toward the fire duty truck at the time of injury, he would have taken another path to church. Instead, he was walking toward the truck to unlock it at the time that he was injured. He wasn't going to transport his friend or her child to church in the fire district truck.

    Leopard filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits and the fire district denied the claim. The matter then went on for hearing before an administrative law judge, who ruled in Leopard's favor and awarded him workers' compensation benefits. The fire district appealed this decision to the Workers' Compensation Board, which affirmed the ALJ's ruling. The board, like the ALJ, concluded that although Leopard was at his home preparing to leave for church at the time of his injury, the connection between his injury and his employment was sufficient to warrant compensation. The fire district then appealed the board's decision to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

    The court began by observing that the central issue was whether Leopard's injury was sufficiently connected to his work as a volunteer firefighter to be compensable under the workers' compensation law. Only those injuries that occur “in the course of” and “arise out of” employment are compensable under that law. For an individual to be eligible for compensation, he must pass this two-part “work-connection” inquiry that asks whether the relationship between the injury and the employment is sufficiently close for the injury to be compensable.

    Each prong of this test examines a different aspect of the possible work connection. The requirement that the injury occur “in the course of” employment relates to the time, place and circumstances of the injury. The “arise out of” prong tests the causal relationship between the worker's injury and his or her employment. The work-connection test may be satisfied if the factors supporting one prong of the statutory test are weak while the factors supporting the other prong are strong. However, both prongs must be satisfied to some degree.

    The court stated that when the board concluded that the work-connection test was satisfied, it did not separately analyze both prongs of the test. Instead, the board relied on four factual circumstances to support its conclusion that the work connection was sufficient. Specifically, the board held that when Leopard fell:

    -He was on paid duty;
    -He had received a page on his employer-provided pager, which he was required to wear while on duty;
    -He was walking to a fire district vehicle that his employer required him to use; and
    -He had altered the route he would have taken to go to church by walking toward the fire district vehicle.

    The court said that these factors all relate to the time, place and circumstances of the injury. Consequently, they bear on whether the injury arose “in the course” of Leopard's employment. An injury occurs in the course of employment if it takes place within the period of employment, at a place where a worker reasonably may be expected to be, and while the worker reasonably is fulfilling the duties of employment or is doing something reasonably incidental to it. The court went on to say that it agreed that at least some of the factors identified by the board supported the conclusion that Leopard's injury arose in the course of his employment.

    The court stated that on-call status, although not sufficient in and of itself to satisfy the “arises out of employment” prong of the test, conceivably can provide a basis to conclude that a worker's injury has occurred in the course of employment. The court agreed that in this case, Leopard's on-duty status did provide a minimal time, place and circumstance connection to employment, especially in combination with the other factors identified by the board. In particular, in addition to his on-duty status, he was walking toward the fire district vehicle and checking his work pager when the injury occurred. The court determined that answering the pager was among Leopard's work responsibilities, independent of whether the call was work-related or not.

    The court went on to say, however, that the time, place and circumstances also had a significant non-work component. Specifically, Leopard was primarily engaged in the personal activity of going to church, and many of the circumstantial facts involved, such as the decision of whether and when to go to church, how the child was carried, and the composition of the driveway, weren't employment-related at all.

    The court said that this wasn't a case in which, “but for the employer's directive,” the claimant would not have been where he was and doing what he was doing. Rather, Leopard was engaged in the personal activity of going to church and was walking to the fire district vehicle only as an incident to that personal activity. In other words, “but for” his decision to pursue that nonwork activity, he would not have had to go to the fire district vehicle at all when he did.

    The court said that his activity at the time of his injury therefore is most accurately characterized as significantly personal in nature, with an incidental connection to work. The court went on to say that although it agreed that there was some circumstantial connection to work — enough to characterize the injury as occurring “in the course” of employment — the connection was not a strong one. Thus, Leopard satisfied the first prong of the test.

    The court then went on to examine the second prong of the work-connection test: whether the injury “arose out of” the employment. This inquiry examines whether a causal link exists between the claimant's injury and a risk connected with employment. To satisfy this prong of the analysis, the causal connection must be linked to a risk connected with the nature of the work or a risk to which the work environment exposes the claimant.

    The court held that none of the factual circumstances identified by the board relate to causation generally, or to the more specific requirement that the injury be due to a risk arising from the nature of the work or the work environment. Rather, the court characterized them as describing only the circumstances of the injury.

    Leopard specifically acknowledged that his act of reaching for his pager had nothing to do with his fall. Nor did the route that he took to the fire district vehicle entail a distinctively different risk of injury than the route that he would have taken had he walked to church. To the contrary, the route that Leopard would have followed had he walked to church also would have entailed crossing his dirt and gravel driveway.

    Finally, the fact that Leopard was on duty was not, standing alone, a basis to conclude that the injury was caused by his employment. Leopard's on-duty status, in and of itself, was indistinguishable in practical terms from being on call, which the court noted that past decisions had held does not render an off-premises injury compensable unless the employee was called to duty or the employee's activities were significantly restricted by the employer.

    The court concluded that although the activities in which Leopard was engaged provided a minimal circumstantial connection between his injury and his work, they didn't also provide the requisite causal relationship between the two. The risk that his foot would slip on the dirt and gravel in his own driveway was not a risk “distinctly associated” with being a firefighter. Stated another way, it was not a risk that was inherent in the “nature” of his work as a firefighter. It was, rather, a risk that existed whenever Leopard walked from his house across his driveway, for whatever reason he might choose. The connection between that risk and Leopard's work activities were coincidental, not causal.

    The court then found that Leopard did not meet his burden of establishing a causal connection between his injury and his work, and therefore did not satisfy the “arises out of employment” prong of the work-connection test. Since both prongs of the test must be satisfied to some degree, the court concluded that the board erred in concluding that Leopard's injury was compensable, and overturned the award of workers' compensation benefits.

    The difficulties presented by this type of circumstances can be reduced by doing the following:

    Having clear, written policies prescribing when employees are on duty and their responsibilities.
    Reviewing the issue of workers' compensation coverage with your department's insurance carrier. Ask for a presentation on coverage to your governing body.
    Educating department members about coverage issues.


    Philip C. Stittleburg, MIFireE, is a Wisconsin attorney who has been chief of the La Farge (Wis.) Fire Department since 1977. He has been legal counsel for the Wisconsin State Fire Fighters Association, legal counsel and Wisconsin director for the National Volunteer Fire Council Inc., president of the NVFC Foundation, and current NVFC chair. Stittleburg sits on the NFPA board of directors and has served on the committee for NFPA 1500, Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program.
    Last edited by ChiefReason; 01-22-2006 at 09:53 AM. Reason: oopsy
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  20. #100
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    May 2004


    The real crime is the "firefighter" who does not act.
    Can you imagine if there were say 10 off-duty firefighters who were on scene when this happened and sat back and watched? What do you think the press would have said? How about the families of those who died?
    If I come across a bad accident before the FD, I stop. Not because I'm a wacker, but becuase I might be able to make a difference. If a neighbors house is on fire, I'm going to try to make sure they're out. If they are not, I will do what I can to get them out. That's what I do. Could I sit back and do nothing like some of you would? Yes, but again, that's not why I chose to be a firefighter.

    Some people call themselves firefighters. They like to go to parades, drive in a firetruck, play with the sirens, make excuses.

    Then there are those who ARE firefighters. They are the ones that try to make a difference, they do what's right and what has to be done.

    It's a shame that there are not laws designed to protect those who risk their lives when not "on duty."

    It will be a real shame when this happens again, and there are 10 off duty firefighters on scene prior to the arrival of the FD, and they sit back and watch because they will not be covered if they get hurt.

    Some of you should pray that its not one of your family members who need help next time something like this happens and it turns out that their were people there who could have helped but sat back and watched.

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