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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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The rest of the story... In an embarrassing incident on Presidents Day, February 15, for both the California Highway Patrol and the Montecito Fire Protection District, a Montecito Fire battalion chief was handcuffed and detained by a CHP officer during response to a minor injury accident on northbound 101 near Sheffield Drive.

The battalion chief had reportedly refused to move a fire truck that was blocking the fast lane — which, as is standard operating procedure, was being used to shield responding crews from traffic — after being asked by the CHP officer to do so because of traffic build-up. While CHP Captain Jeff Sgobba said an internal investigation is being conducted, he admitted that the incident was a stain on the record of cooperation between the two agencies.

As explained by Geri Ventura, media spokesperson for Montecito Fire, the CHP has ranking jurisdiction over all freeway incidents, and a responding CHP officer is always the lead incident commander. While normally communication between CHP and other responding agencies is smooth — a prime example being the seamless joint effort established between the two agencies during the Jesusita Fire — this particular incident lacked that mutual accord.

After the CHP arrived on the scene at around 3:00 p.m. (smack dab in the middle of holiday traffic), the Montecito battalion chief and fire crews showed up, parking a rig at a 45-degree angle across the fast lane to protect initial responders from commuters as is standard operating procedure. The slow lane was still open, but traffic had purportedly backed up for a few miles. (full story)

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