Andee Huber, Rest in PeaceIn 2003, a beautiful, intelligent, driven 16-year-old student firefighter -- Andee Huber (pictured left) -- was killed when the fire truck she was riding in crashed thanks to a drunk driver.

Sadly, that driver was driving the fire truck! (Read the Story: Teen Firefighter Killed in Truck Rollover: Driver C...)

But have firefighters really learned from it?

The subsequent outcry four years ago led to a lot of new regulations throughout the country, and sent a message to America's firefighters that there were significant consequences right at home for for drinking and riding -- let alone driving -- on an emergency response. The fact that in today's world it is remotely acceptable still makes me shake my head.

At the time, I wrote an editorial on Firehouse.com entitled Charges That Hurt: Alcohol in the Fire Service. In it, besides commenting on the tragegy at hand:

Alcohol has no place in an on-duty first responder's life. If you're at party when a pager goes off and you've 'had a few', stay at the party. If your chief lets your members drink at the station and go on calls if you're not 'totally wasted', think about suggesting a policy change.

Yet, years later, it still happens. And probably WAY more than any of us want to believe.

According to NorthJersey.com in an artticle this week:

The presence of alcohol in firehouses, as well as alcohol use by volunteers, came under scrutiny last week after a Garfield firefighter was charged with drunken driving one week after he wrecked his car while racing to a fire call at a local senior center. Volunteer firefighter Radoslaw Polanski, 23, was critically injured in the July 20 car wreck, and he remained Sunday at Hackensack University Medical Center in critical condition.

The reporter at NorthJersey.com (the Herald) did a nice piece this week entitled 'Alcohol, firefighters a bad mix', in which they detail how alcohol is used socially at firehouses in New Jersey. And certainly it isn't limited to that state.

The firefighter in the Wyoming case, Ronald J. Caillier, 47, pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide. Caillier had a blood-alcohol level of 0.16 percent following the tanker truck crash, the Associated Press reported at the time. Wyoming's legal limit is 0.08. Prosecutors said he had left a bar about 15 minutes before his pager went off.

He'll be in jail for a long time. Andee never had a chance. And they were responding to a grass fire.

Hopefully we don't need anothe tragedy like the one that took the life of 10th-grade student firefighter Anndee Huber to give us another wake up call.

Amazing isn't it? Rushing to save a life might take one.

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Comment by Haylee on October 31, 2008 at 5:08pm
I actually am im on the dame department as Andee was. I was heartbroken, I guess if you have any questions, just ask. I also have pics of her memorial if anyone wants to see it :)
Comment by Berg Schulenberg on September 7, 2007 at 11:20pm
I've been in the fire service now for 45 years. Years ago it was acceptable to have a beer machine in the firehouse and make runs.
NO MORE. Today we have a 0% tolerance policy. You drink 1 drink, whether it be a beer, glass of wine or a mixed drink you do not make a run for 12 hrs. If you get injured, even slightly you are taken to the hospital for a blood alcohol test.
Alcoholand the fire/EMS service do not mix together. People look up to us for comfort and protection, the last thing they need to have to do is fear us.
Nuff said
Comment by Lee McIntyre on August 25, 2007 at 7:44pm
It is bad that the people that are supposed to be protecting the public try to do so when their ablity to perform is compromised. This happened in my county this summer when a few of our search and resque guys were searching for a downed air plane on atvs and had an accident due to alcohol.
Comment by Michael Corns on August 25, 2007 at 1:34pm
Seems ridiculous we even have to metion this. It's sort of a given. By the way, don't stick an axe into your buddy's chest for safe storage.
Comment by Nancy Lankford McCain on August 14, 2007 at 10:36pm
There is no excuse. Career, Volunteer it does not matter. You are held to a higher standard. If you aren't up to the responsibility of that standard, get out now. If the Chief says it's OK, then get a new chief. That should make you question his decisions that your life depends on at the fireground.

I'm a little hard nose having been the victim of a DWI that the DA wouldn't prosecute because of a small lac on her forhead for which she got a butterfly. That didn't even compare to the lac on my 2 year olds face that took several stitches.
Comment by dnoles on August 10, 2007 at 1:50am
my uncle was a chief in the fire dept for 25 years as was my dad they were also both avid alcoholics when i was i would ask y they drank so much and they would reply cause of what ive seen now i know there are many difficult things to be seen in the fire service but is alchol the answer , when you are a first responder you make a comitment to your department to answer the call no matter what so why would u get drunk knowing u may have to leave at any time to help some one and risk your life and the lifes of others just because u wanted a drink its stupidity.
Comment by Coach on August 5, 2007 at 10:39pm
Sad to say, but this seems a failure of leadership. The command staff has to set the standard of absoloute zero tolerance. Sounds like common sense. But how many of our departments have written policy prohibiting a members response if they have been drinking? Or, due to the manpower problems we all seem to have, is just 1 drink ok? Or maybe 2, because well we know he (she) can hold it? Each of us needs to review our own department policy. If the department does not have one, then it's time to make one, before another promising life is lost.
Comment by IPN on August 1, 2007 at 2:08pm
What happened to common sense? This never should have happened. What a waste!
Comment by David E. Stokes on August 1, 2007 at 3:05am
i agree whole heartedly. Alcohol Has NO PLACE in the hands of a first responder, or in the fire house. Yes, everyone likes to cut loose every now and then, but for gods sake, put the damn car keys away, turn the pager off and stay home. I dont ever want to have to cut one of my guys out of thier car responding to a call, and find out thier under the influence, just one beer can impare you. We are here to save lives, not each others at that time.

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