Civilian Assistance at fires or other emergencies

Over the years, persons claiming they are a volunteer firefighter in another locality have attempted to assist Whitehall firefighters by pulling hoses from our trucks and in some instances, attempting to pull hose away from fully geared firefighters.

At one incident a civilian was on top of our fire engine demanding the deck gun be deployed and was ordered on several occasions to leave the fire scene by firefighters.

On the scene of any emergency, our priorities are life safety, incident stabilization and property conservation. These “volunteer civilians” do not have any personal protective fire gear during an incident, placing themselves at grave risk of injury. Often their actions are unwelcome, providing an unsafe work area for local firefighters. This conduct adversely affects the fire scene by causing confusion and undue stress on our working crews, and interrupting chain of command on the fire ground.

Further, these “civilian volunteers” are in violation of New York State General Municipal Law §209.i, where they do not serve in a fire department that is in mutual aid agreement with our department. Under that statute, unsafe actions by “volunteer civilians” on the fire ground leave our fire company liable for any negligent act committed by them.

Civilians not heeding orders from firefighters to keep clear of a fire scene will be charged with New York Penal Law – PEN § 195.05 Obstructing governmental administration in the second degree

A person is guilty of obstructing governmental administration when he intentionally obstructs, impairs or perverts the administration of law or other governmental function or prevents or attempts to prevent a public servant from performing an official function, by means of intimidation, physical force or interference, or by means of any independently unlawful act, or by means of interfering, whether or not physical force is involved, with radio, telephone, television or other telecommunications systems owned or operated by the state, or a county, city, town, village, fire district or emergency medical service or by means of releasing a dangerous animal under circumstances evincing the actor’s intent that the animal obstruct governmental administration.

Obstructing governmental administration is a class A misdemeanor.