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  1. #1
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    Default Firefighters vs Police

    I just have 2 questions.
    1) Does a Police Chief have the authority to tell the Fire Chief that calls are to go to the police dept and respond before the fire dept.?
    2) Does the Fire dept. have the authority to close a road down and/or detour traffic from a scene?
    My family has been in the fire service for over 30 years and I have never heard of a police chief doing this before, so I am just wondering what you all think. FYI he is in the state of Maine.


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    Luckly we have a good working relationship between the police department and my fire company. To answer your questions...

    1) I think it all depends on your local laws. In my area, the fire companies are dispatched by the EOC and not the local police departments. There are a couple of townships that have the ability to dispatch the fire companies in case of emergency. Usually, the police respond along with the fire company.

    2) We have the authority to detour or shut down a roadway if needed. The only exception is the PA Turnpike unless it is a major incident. The police usually assist us.

    Hope this helps.

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    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    In CT, state law gives the ranking fire official command over the scene, period. If the FD wants to shut down the road and dynamite a trench so nobody can drive through, we can.

    As far as dispatch protocols, there is no state law in CT for that. It would seem logical that the FD and PD be sent simultaneously to an incident that requires both agencies. It is something the chiefs and town administration need to hash out and is perhaps one of the biggest pains in the *** in the fire service. We dealt with it by taking our dispatch services elsewhere.
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    To answer #2, you can look into the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (just do an internet search for MUTCD). It's DOT's "bible" on traffic control. There is are provisions for emergency situations, whereas if there's a life safety, fire, or hazardous materials hazard, the FD has the authority to close lanes or the entire highway. However, if any of those aren't the situation, law enforcement must do it. There's some "ifs" and "buts" in there, but it's a good place to start if you want something on paper.

    The only kicker to it, though, is that the MUTCD also requires FDs to perform a certain level of traffic control as well.

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    Around here fire or ems get paged then dispatch notifies law enforcement of what is going on. It is up to the officer if the go to the call or not.

    As far as shuting down a road. Thats upto whoever is in charge on the fire department. It isnt done a lot on the interstate but we shutdown state and county roads all the time. No matter what the scene is fire/ems is in charge until all pts are removed and the scene is considered safe. Then it can be turned over to law for their investigations.

    Our local law enforcement is always willing to help. The highway patrol tends to have a little sphyncter shrinkage when you tell them you are shuting down a road and they havnt talked to thier superviser.

  6. #6
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    Default A funny to add to this

    my dept. was responding to a car crash. The "ranking" police officer on scene stated fire dept. was not needed. Despite we had tree limbs down and fluids. The officer of the trucks response was "Unless he has a chainsaw, brooms and speedy dry in his cruiser we will continue".
    We swear we heard dispatch bust up laughing and inform the police officer on that!
    And in Vermont, I beleive that the ranking fire person, has authority to shut down the road, if there is any chance of fire or what have you.
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    1) Around here, the cops are dispatched to just about everything before us. On one hand its good, because a few of the troopers that run the town are firefighter in other towns and can give somewhat of a sizeup. Plus they can always be garanteed to get there first. Most of the troopers are at least MRT trained as well, so that helps. HOWEVER, unless they are going to equip police cars with pumps and 1,800 gallons of water, they shouldn't be rolling first to fires. They don't really have the authority to send us back either.

    2) In my town, the Fire Chief is authorized to shut down all roads, and by delegating command to another (namely fire-police) we can shut down whatever-the-hell we want to. Some people try to argue this, thats what we have the cops for.

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    For #1 probably not depending on the relevant laws. Now in reality it depends on who employes the dispatchers. If the PD does the dispatching and the PD chief tells them to send an officer first then they most likely aren't gonna go against their boss.

    As for #2 it also depends on the local/state laws. In Ohio the fire chief can close the road BUT REMEMBER u close it and its your responsibilty to control it. You are now responsible for traffic control and warning (flaggers, signs, etc). **** off the cops and they are gonna dump it on you and tell you they are there for the investigation only, then try to get them to stop people from driving on your closed road. They will tell you "You closed it you enforce it," and there is nothing you can do to make them help you.

    Now for my advice work with each other not against each other, it will make things go a whole lot easier, a whole lot smoother, and things will get done a lot easier.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cherylew1
    I just have 2 questions.
    1) Does a Police Chief have the authority to tell the Fire Chief that calls are to go to the police dept and respond before the fire dept.?
    Someone is extremely insecure and feels that the FD is a threat to his authority. Is this Police Chief willong to accept the responsibility when one of his patrol officers showes up at a reported fire, says "ayuh, I don't see nothin', so we don;t need the fiah depahtment heah?"

    2) Does the Fire dept. have the authority to close a road down and/or detour traffic from a scene?
    The safety of my personnel is paramount to the needs of John and Jane Q. public to get to the local "qwicky mart" to get their powerball/megamillions tickets, etc.

    People can't get by when you park a 20 ton firetruck across the road. When the PSD arrive, they take over traffic control, if they haven't blocked the roads already.

    My family has been in the fire service for over 30 years and I have never heard of a police chief doing this before, so I am just wondering what you all think. FYI he is in the state of Maine.
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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire
    In CT, state law gives the ranking fire official command over the scene, period.
    Same in Fla.

    Yes, we shut down roads all the time, its our SOG. We do not set up detours or direct traffic. We just shut the road down and let PD set up detours/direct traffic when they arrive.

    As for PD saying FD is not needed, if we get dispatched, we continue, period. Now, if a call comes in as a PD matter and it turns out we should have been called, its up to PD to be smart enough to call us. If they dont, anything bad that happens is on them.
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  11. #11
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    We are fortunate to have a very good working relationship with our PD and they opperate well with our fire police and with fire command at all incidents.

    Our county dispatch center is set up to always dispatch fire and EMS immediately to an incident and only then do they dispatch PD to "assist" us.
    Incident command has complete control over all fire and MVA scenes and will shut down whatever street or road they feel necessary in order to safeguard our personnel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire
    In CT, state law gives the ranking fire official command over the scene, period. If the FD wants to shut down the road and dynamite a trench so nobody can drive through, we can.

    As far as dispatch protocols, there is no state law in CT for that. It would seem logical that the FD and PD be sent simultaneously to an incident that requires both agencies. It is something the chiefs and town administration need to hash out and is perhaps one of the biggest pains in the *** in the fire service. We dealt with it by taking our dispatch services elsewhere.
    this is how it works in Ohio, and we too are dispatched by a thrid service.
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    Up here in my neck of Canadia, The RCMP (Police) do have ultimate authority over all areas that are non-municipal. In municipal areas, it is wherever the local authority has put the power. The Police however, do not pull power trips, and work well with all branches of the emergency services.

    For road closures, both PD or FD can "Block" a road temporarily for safety or responders and the public, but only the Ministry of Transportation can "Close" a road.
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    In Tennessee, road the FD has the authority to close roads over PD's objection.

    It has always been my philosophy to close down as much as I need to for as long as I need to, and open up as much as I can as quickly as I can.

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    Here, police and fire are dispatched by the county sheriffs department and the ambulance is forwarded to a private company and then are dispatched by them and respond.

    Until recently, state troopers would get very upset if we would shut down the highway. However, with the ever rising death toll of responders on the highway, we have been allowed to shut down the "I". Actually, the troopers have been shutting it down post our arrival so we can get there, but then we don't have to worry about getting hit while in service. With the "I" shutdown, it makes patient transport easier by providing a LZ for a helicopter on the roadway. It also frees people up so with a low number of responders, they can do other neccessary jobs other than directing traffic. That is the police's job.

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    in my town the police and fire are usually dispatched at the same time. however there have been times that we were not dispatched. example : odor of smoke in a residential area. which turned out to be a structure fire and we lost the house. however police do control traffic at our accidents, if they dont want to go do something else that is. that have left us high and dry many times. but we do have a good relationship with the officers, i am friends with alot of them, just not a fan of their work ethic.

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    Well, on my Cadet guidelines sheet, it says that a cadet may not assist in traffic coordinating. So i assume the Fire Dept. can control traffic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MustanGT1964 View Post
    Well, on my Cadet guidelines sheet, it says that a cadet may not assist in traffic coordinating. So i assume the Fire Dept. can control traffic.
    Coo-dos to your department for keeping their cadets safe!!!
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    To answer #2, you can look into the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (just do an internet search for MUTCD). It's DOT's "bible" on traffic control. There is are provisions for emergency situations, whereas if there's a life safety, fire, or hazardous materials hazard, the FD has the authority to close lanes or the entire highway. However, if any of those aren't the situation, law enforcement must do it. There's some "ifs" and "buts" in there, but it's a good place to start if you want something on paper.

    The only kicker to it, though, is that the MUTCD also requires FDs to perform a certain level of traffic control as well.
    All I see in Ch6I is "If manual traffic control is needed, it should be provided by qualified flaggers or uniformed law enforcement Officers"

    Can you tell me which chapter you see that the FD has authority to direct traffic & shut down roads please? I hope they are not referring to us as flaggers, lol

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    In my dept, the dispatch center alerts the fire dept when an accident requiring the fire dept then police. So the police chief does not order the fire chief on what's to happen with dispatching policies. The answer to your second question is, the incident commander is the fire chief or first due officer on scene and does have the authority to shut down and/or divert traffic. When that happens, we alert either County Police/Highway Patrol or the New Jersey State Police (depending what highway is being shut down) to assist with lane closures and detours. If it said accident is on the interstate then we alert the New Jersey DOT to respond and set up closures and detours.

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