There have been several incidents recently where motorists have disregarded the orders of Franklin County's "fire police." Formed several years ago under General Municipal Law in the State of New York, the main responsibility of the fire police is traffic or crowd control at the scene of an emergency such as a fire or highway crash.
Fire police, when on duty, are accorded peace officer status. That means they have the authority to enforce law and make arrests. They are easily recognizable by their lime green or blaze orange coats or vests that say "fire police."
At a recent Franklin County Traffic Safety Board meeting, the incidents of non-compliance with fire police were discussed. Non-compliance can disrupt and/or hinder the work of firemen or police officers during emergencies. As a result of motorists disregarding the directions of the fire police, future incidents of non-compliance will immediately be reported to the dispatcher of the state police who will dispatch a police officer to the scene. The officer will take a statement from the fire police and follow up with the offending driver.
Non-compliance with an order from a member of the fire police is a violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law, article 1102, which states:
"No person shall fail or refuse to comply with any lawful order or direction of any police officer or flagperson or other person duly empowered to regulate traffic."
Since fire police are duly authorized to regulate traffic, anyone disobeying an order or directive of a member of the fire police would be in violation of this V&T Law and subject to a fine of up to $150 plus surcharges and/or 15 days in jail for the first offense. It also assesses two points against your driving record. This would also be the violation and punishment for disregarding a lawful order or direction of a flagperson in a work zone.
Fire police provide a valuable service to both the responders to the emergency and to the public by directing traffic around the site of the emergency, assisting motorists with directions for alternate routing, keeping traffic flowing safely, and protecting the public from dangers associated with the emergency. They assist in keeping congestion in and around an emergency scene at a minimum by controlling civilian and incoming emergency traffic and keeping sightseers at a safe distance. Disobeying their directions can be dangerous to emergency personnel as well as to the impatient driver.
Not every county is fortunate enough to have fire police. Be thankful Franklin County has such an organization, be aware of their presence, and respect them for the job they do.
For more articles on vehicle and traffic law and traffic safety, go to www.franklincony.org/content/Departments/View/24.
Dave Werner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.