MONTECITO, Calif. - The California Highway Patrol is investigating why a firefighter was handcuffed for refusing to move a fire engine from a freeway in Santa Barbara County.

CHP Capt. Jeff Sgobba says the incident on Feb. 15 was rare, regrettable and embarrassing.

The confrontation took place in Montecito when CHP officers responded to a freeway crash that caused minor injuries.

Sgobba says arriving Montecito firefighters blocked the fast lane with an engine to shield responding authorities from traffic.

Sgobba says a CHP officer ordered the rig moved and handcuffed a fire battalion chief who refused. The firefighter was released when a CHP supervisor arrived a short time later.

No charges have been filed.


Information from: Santa Barbara News-Press,

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Does FD not have authority over PD in Cali at an incident where both are dispatched? I wonder if another video will surface from this incident, as one did a couple years ago for basically the same thing. Did the officer not realize that the FD was trying to protect everyone at the scene, including himself?
Considering that I worked for Montecito FD years ago, I will find out more about this and post it.

To answer your question, in the state of California, the California Highway Patrol has responsibility as the scene manager for incidents on the highway. We are there to help out and make problems go away but when it comes to traffic control and preventing further accidents from occurring, the CHP are very vigilant to keep the roadway open by leaving at least one lane clear. If the engine blocked both lanes and there was not a discussion as to how long and how to work it out... well, problems will and did occur.

To be continued...

Thanks for the info, looking forward to anything else you might be able to dig up on this incident.
Here's the additional information:

A California Highway Patrol officer handcuffed and detained a Montecito fire battalion chief on Presidents Day after the firefighter refused to move a fire truck, which was blocking Highway 101 traffic, in order to protect officials responding to a crash.

The Montecito Fire Protection District battalion chief was released as soon as a CHP supervisor arrived at the scene, and no charges have been filed, CHP Capt. Jeff Sgobba told the News-Press Monday during a brief meeting at Montecito fire headquarters on San Ysidro Road. The agencies are looking into the incident internally.

"For a member of another agency to get detained and placed in handcuffs is highly unusual, rare, regrettable and frankly, caused embarrassment to both departments," Sgt. Sgobba said.

He added: "We've been discussing this before, and we're not going to let one situation between two individuals ruin a perfectly good relationship we enjoy with Montecito Fire Department."

The CHP arrived at the minor-injury collision on the southbound side of Highway 101 north of Sheffield Drive first, and fire crews soon followed. Firefighters positioning a fire rig at an angle going into the shoulder and blocking the fast lane, as is the department's standard procedure to protect the initial responders, Capt. Sgobba said.

"This was at 3 o'clock in the afternoon — you know — on a Monday after the three-day weekend" Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Wallace said, referring to the heavy traffic at the time.

Capt. Sgobba continued: "There was a difference of opinion whether (the battalion chief) should move his rig or not because they had not had an opportunity to assess the injured parties, and our officer abruptly reminded that battalion chief to move the rig." The battalion chief did not comply with the CHP demand and was subsequently handcuffed and detained until the CHP supervisor arrived, at which point he was immediately released, Capt. Sgobba said.

Chief Wallace received a report of the incident but he was unable to respond in his personal vehicle because of traffic, but he said it was mostly resolved about half an hour after it started.

"We're just doing a follow-up because of what happened," Chief Wallace said. "We want to make sure that the good relationship that we've had is not deteriorated by this single incident."

Of the parking technique, Chief Wallace said, "At an angle, you've got that much more square footage to protect you."

The vehicle did not impede on the slow lane, according to the department.

The CHP officer apparently believed the placement of the vehicle would add to traffic, which was backed up for several miles because of the holiday weekend and the crash, Capt. Sgobba said.

The agencies have discussed the response tactics, and Capt. Sgobba said they likely would have come under scrutiny regardless.

"When there are differences of opinion, that's when we debrief the situation and find out what we could have done differently," the captain said. "If the policy needs to be modified or training needs to be adjusted, we do that, and that's another mutual agreement between the representatives of the departments."

Sgt. Sgobba confirmed the CHP officer transferred back to the Santa Barbara area from Bakersfield about a month ago after being gone for a little more than two years.

Asked if the disagreement could have anything to do with the officer still re-familiarizing himself with local policies, Capt. Sgobba said it's possible, but he didn't know.

The chief concluded, "It's regrettable, and we're moving on from here to improve our relationship."
I applaud the Batman for standing up for his firefighters safety. It was the right thing to do. Unless that officer is going to personally stand there and redirect traffic around the firefighters working in the roadway it is the obligation of the officers to ensure the safety of their crews. Sitting a cruiser writing a ticket is not protecting firefighters! And rest assured that when an officer is injured in an accident the entire roadway sometimes in both directions is completely closed off.
I find it incredible that the state most responsible for bringing us N.I.M.S. can't seem to get the idea of Unified Command down. If memory serves me right this is at least the second Cali based incident of Cop arrests Fire Officer for setting up a safety zone. The other one made You Tube.

Having read Captain Busy's post, that it is the responsibility of C.H.P. to manage the scene, I still hate to think that my fellow L.E.O.'s would rather attend a LODD funeral, than work in a safe zone.

I guess it's just another case of "bad cop no doughnut!!!"
It is important to emphasize that this was an isolated incident that was not agency driven. This was a single individual (CHP) who did not use common sense. The MFD responders followed all of the rules, leaving a lane open for traffic flow and attempted to discuss this with the the CHP officer in question. I was told that everything in the Santa Barbara Newspress article is correct. Meanwhile, there is the other side of the story still waiting to be told. I look forward to watching this evenings local news to find out more...

Note: The Battalion Chief involved has now been made aware that his nickname is now (and appropriately so...) "Batman". The MFD and this BC in particular have been getting fan mail from all over via email.

"It's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice..."

Batman ! Way to go Chief !
When I first read about this ,all I could say was WTH?!
This CHP officer ,To quote the President, " acted stupidly "
Maybe the cop a CHP Explorer?
thats not the same idiot who done this last year is it? I remember another accident where the samething was done and the police officer hand arrested the fire fighter for the same thing......I can't remember where it was too but i do believe it was in the states somewhere....
It was not the same CHP officer... again, this was an isolated incident that involved a single individual who made a very bad decision... that will cause increased embarrassment to the California Highway Patrol as the minutes click closer to the evening news when everyone else hears about it...


Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence!

[George Washington (1732 - 1799)]
We had an incident here in Texas about 7 or 8 years ago involving a chief's decision to land a helicopter on the roadway. (We do it all the time!) A state trooper tried to intervene, saying that would block the roadway needlessly. They argued. The Chief won that one. We all agree now that FD always has command at MVC scenes here.
Hope the CA guys get it all worked out.

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