In 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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