With the recent events with the state troopers and emts, it got me to thinking about how often we in the fire service make jokes at the expense of law enforcement. How many of have heard of using the" cop o' meter"to check for haz-mat, or one of the many jokes about fire fighters being better than police officers? I have been on both sides of the issue, I am a retired law enforcement officer, and I can see both sides. We need to stop setting ourselves apart and start trying to remove the walls that seperate us and learn to work together. I know that there many fire depts that get along with and work well with their local law enforcementand I am fortunate to be with a dept that does. I think that alot of the friction that exist between the fire service and law enforcement comes from a lack of understanding of the roles and responsebilities that each dept has at an incident, and if we try to show each other what we do and why we do it, we could eliminate alot of the problems. Now I know that we are not all going to line up and hold hands, but I do think that a little information can go a long way.

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Comment by Jim Seargent on June 6, 2009 at 12:14am
It's happening more and more.........

BENTONVILLE - Hickory Creek firefighters were threatened with arrest as they tried to find the man who drowned Sunday on Beaver Lake, according to the fire chief.

Hickory Creek Fire Chief Marc Trollinger described anything but a smooth operation between Benton County Sheriff's Office deputies and other emergency responders on Sunday.

Sunday's events highlight a longstanding situation in drowning incidents between the Sheriff's Office and other emergency responders, Trollinger said. The issue is that once an hour has passed, the Sheriff's Office views such incidents as crime scenes that must be investigated.

Modesto Ortega-Palma, 26, from Mexico, drowned approximately 100 feet from shore in the Hickory Creek area of Beaver Lake. Several people tried to help Ortega-Palma when they noticed he was having trouble, but they were unsuccessful.

Don Townsend, chief deputy of the Benton County Sheriff's Office, said the body had been in the water for an hour or more, so it was determined that it was not a rescue operation, but a body recovery.

That determination - a death - made the area a crime scene, Townsend said.

The BCSO has its own dive team that is trained in recovery of possible evidence, Townsend said. Team members are trained to be observant of possible evidence around the body, he said.

Townsend said the situation was a recovery operation because Ortega-Palma had been in the water an hour or more.

"We have to approach every death as a crime scene to determine if foul play is involved," Townsend said. "Ask any judge or prosecutor, and they will tell you the same thing."

Townsend said Trollinger had not spoken with him regarding his concerns about the situation.

Trollinger said firefighters work well with other lawenforcement agencies. The problem only arises with the Sheriff's Office.

"Everyone else lets us do our duty and jobs; then they do their investigation, " Trollinger said.

According to Trollinger, his department responded at 6:06 p.m. to the Hickory Creek Recreation Area swim area. Trollinger later issued a news release describing the operation.

Hickory Creek units began search-and-rescue operations at 6:24 p.m. Through witness interviews, a last-seen point for Ortega-Palma was located, and the department's rescue boat began trolling at 6:28 p.m. using onboard side sonar equipment, Trollinger said in the news release.

At 6:42 p.m., the sonar equipment indicated a probable location of the missing person. At 6:53 p.m., a rescue diver with the Benton County Water Rescue Team arrived, boarded the rescue boat and began suiting up to dive at the location pinpointed by the sonar, according to the press release.

Four minutes later, at 8:57 p.m., Sheriff's Office deputies declared the area a crime scene because of the event being outside the "golden hour." The New Jersey Trauma Center at the University Hospital in Newark defines the term "golden hour" as the time period of one hour in which the lives of a majority of critically injured trauma patients can be saved if definitive surgical intervention is provided.

Trollinger said in the release that at that point, the victim had been missing for 51 minutes; during the next 17 minutes, deputies threatened fire-and-water rescue personnel with possible consequences if they continued to perform their search and did not immediately leave the scene.

During the delay, the Fire Department, water-rescue members and bystanders pleaded with deputies to allow the search to continue, Trollinger said in the release.

After failing to gain approval of the Sheriff's Office, Fire Department personnel and water-rescue members decided to continue the search, Trollinger said.

At 7:14 p.m., water-rescue divers entered the water to search the location indicated by sonar, the press release states. After approximately 20 minutes of searching, the drowning victim was located and removed from the water, Trollinger's press release states.

"The Fire Department cannot speak as to the condition of the victim or if he at any point may have been a viable patient, as we do not have enough information to form a conclusion," Trollinger said in the release. "We feel it prudent to note in the accounting of events that the situation that developed between law enforcement and fire officials was a hindrance to smooth scene operations and had a negative effect on the operational goal of rescuing a victim. These events delayed the rescue efforts of responders and delayed the victim's recovery by more than 15 minutes."

Trollinger said that had the victim been a viable patient, the delay would have had a detrimental effect on the patient's possibility of survival.

Trollinger was not at the scene of Sunday's incident but was told that other emergency responders were threatened with arrest if they did not halt their rescue efforts.

Trollinger said there are documented cases of people recovering after spending an hour or more under water.

"We are trying to be a service to the community when we are called for help, and then to be delayed by the Sheriff's Office," Trollinger said. "Let us do our jobs, and don't interfere with our ability to render aid."
Comment by WRFD 784 on June 5, 2009 at 2:40am
My department works really well with the local Sheriffs Office. We have about 8 members on or department that are sheriffs deputys. I think that is works out really well becasue we can get both sides of the story in one place. Most of the time when we roll up scene then we have someone there that can give us a size up before or on call person gets there and gives them alot better picture of what they are going to be needing. This also is a benifit because after a fire they stop by and tell us what we could have done better becasue they are there just standing back looking at the whole picture more than the IC is. I think that every department should do more with there local law enforcment. We do training with them about 3 times a year also that helps out.
Comment by Harold Richard Hair on June 1, 2009 at 7:33am
i have worked both sides as a law enforcer and fire fighter i wouldrather be running into burning buildings then deal with the stupid idiots law enforcement has to. Them idiots make me mad and then i do stupid things lol so i got out of law enforcement.
Comment by Robin Inman on May 31, 2009 at 1:28pm
I agree whole heartly with you John, we all work to save lives so I don't see why we can't all work together.....sometimes it just takes more than having tunnel vision and realizing that different agencies have different or the same SOP's and work together in making sure they mesh. Our city and state agencies work very well together most of the time here in Alaska. I say most of the time though because just recently we had a crazy situation here at the University where I work that made me see that some work still needs to be done. We have on university property a couple of lakes, one of which is part of the city dog park. We also have alot of construction going on around campus during the spring, summer, fall season (which I lump together because it's really only about 6 months and the other 6 months of winter season in construction unfriendly)....well we had this gentleman with his dog running around by the lake and his dog went out onto the very, very thin ice that was still around the edge and fall through. This dog owner promptly went out to help his dog and himself got into trouble with the cold, cold water. Now the fire department (who are very well trained for these problems since they happen quite often up here) showed up to help. Our University Police Department also showed up (our University Police Department are an actual police department and not just a security department like some other universities and campuses have). Well all of a sudden a contractor who is working close by comes and demands that the fire department get their rigs of the contracting site and then our UPD officer joins in on the argument all the while this poor guy and his dog are getting into more distress. Finally a couple of workers from maintenance and the outdoor physical education department bring in a canoe and go out and get both the man and his dog bring them in and take them to the hospital and pet emergency (which are very close by) because these agencies are still all arguing over the situation. I was appalled over this situation and made a complaint to both our chief of police of our Univeristy Police Department and our University Chancellor reminding them that we all have to learn to play together and remind them that egos need to be left out. I also reminded them how thankful we are to the fire department that they come to all our 911 calls that we make from the sports complex in such quick response times not matter what the situation is, and I reminded them that we at the sports center need to keep up this kind of team work and not alienate anyone. Hopefully this situation will resolve itself and never happen again. So listen up all life saving departments and remember what we all were suppose to learn in kindergarten...we need to remember to work together, share our toys and be respectful of those around us. Take care all of my brothers, sisters and friends and stay safe.
Comment by Joe Stoltz on May 31, 2009 at 9:10am
Funny coincidence - we had a small run-in with law enforcement just the other night.

The call came in as a property damage crash so only LE was sent to check it out. It was a 2-car T-bone with 5 people total involved. Tow trucks were called and one car was actually being loaded onto a flat bed when one of the involved persons decided to be seen at a hospital.

Our ambulance was called for a "checkover" at a "crash"; our SOG/SOP calls for a vehicle crash response. The LEO on scene was rather pissed when the fire truck showed up and had words with our Chief, who explained that we have SOPs too.

To get to the point - you are right on with your assessment that a little knowledge of each agency's role is essential. I think another aspect to be considered is that none of us are perfect; everone has a bad day, now and then.

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