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Long Island Fire Chief Cited for closing down highway lane

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  • Long Island Fire Chief Cited for closing down highway lane

    From: firefighterclosecalls.com


    Wednesday, January 26, 2011 In Nassau County on Long Island (NY) this morning, James Allen, Chief of the North Merrick Fire Department, was issued a citation by a New York State Trooper. The Chief was making an attempt to close the southbound right-hand lane because of a crash in the center lane on the Meadowbrook State Parkway around 0900 today. The Chief was leaving one lane open for traffic to keep moving, but wanted the accident lane and one other lane closed for safety.

    “It wasn’t safe. The weather this morning was not good (wet, snowy, icy) and cars were slipping and sliding all over the place. We had a crash victim and I was just trying to make it as safe as possible. I have to keep my personnel safe too,” Allen said.

    It should be noted that NY State just passed the Ambrose-Searles Move Over Act. It's named after a NY State Trooper and an Onondaga County Sheriff's deputy, who were both killed in the Line of Duty while their patrol cars were stopped along the side of the road. New York is one of the last states to enact a Move Over Law.


    Chief Allen explained that the Trooper did not want him to close the right lane of the parkway, insisting that he allow both the right and left lanes to handle the flow of traffic-with responders operating in the middle. When Chief Allen disagreed, (because of his concern about personnel operating in an "island" without any side protection), the officer threatened to have him arrested. Instead, the incident ended with the State Trooper issuing the Chief a citation.

    According to the Chief, the incident involved a car that had spun around and was northbound in the south bound center lane. The Trooper pulled up first and put his truck (SUV) behind the accident in the center lane. The Chief, arriving moments later, put his SUV in the right lane, so now the right and center lane was blocked and they kept the left lane for traffic to keep moving. The Trooper sternly wanted the Chief to open up the right lane and let traffic go in both the left and right lane and have the Firefighters, EMT's (and the police) work in the center lane.

    Chief Allen told the Trooper he was not moving his Chiefs truck for the safety of his department members, the patient and for the police. The Trooper didn't like that idea and told the chief that if he don't move the vehicle, he was going to arrest him. The chief responded "I guess that's what you are going to do because I am not moving my truck".

    Chief Allen has been a firefighter for 23 years and a chief officer for 5 years and there has never been a problem previously. The parkways are shut down or partially shut down regularly-as a matter of safety for all operating. Chief Allen called the Nassau County Fire Communications Center (Firecom) for a state police supervisor to respond, who never showed up. The end result was that the trooper gave the chief a ticket for failing to comply with a lawful order.

    The chief has a call into the area state police supervisor to ask him if this is the way they are going to work with us? If so, the chief has stated that the North Merrick FD, as long as he is Chief of Department, will not respond to a call on the parkway because the safety of his members is first.

    “As of January 1, (as noted above, with video) there is a new NY State law in effect that says that all cars have to move over a lane when they see an emergency vehicle. Now, in this case, no one could move over because the accident was in the center lane, but I had to make the scene secure,” Chief Allen stated.

    Chief Allen clearly "gets it"- we just don't understand why the Trooper doesn't, or at least didn't. This, especially after his own agency (NY State Police) worked to pass the new law. NYS Police are also on the forefront nationally on scene/traffic management, warning light use and color and related safety initiatives. We'll keep you advised.


  • #2
    I ran into that problem on several occasions with my previous department. Local PD and state troopers were great to work with, but the Sheriff’s dept was horrible to work with on the interstate.

    You have to do the right thing. I disagree with not responding to the area because of safety issues. Respond to the area and do what you need to do to make it safe. If that means blocking the parkway with your rig then do it. I don't think the trooper's supervisor will have a problem with it.


    • #3
      Makes me appreciate our P.D. and M.Ps. so much more..... When I say the lane/road is closed it's closed no questions..... We did have another Captain that almost got "detained" by CHP for blocking the #2 lane of a (2) lane highway; they had a vehicle fire with running fuel. Our Captain stood his ground and when the CHP Supervisor (Sgt) showed-up he pulled the Patrolman aside and reamed him..... Since then, we've had no issues and have done some great training involving the local CHP Office.

      Good job Chief Allen..... I respect putting your Guys #1.
      "Be LOUD, Be PROUD..... It just might save your can someday when goin' through an intersection!!!!!"

      Life on the Truck (Quint) is good.....

      Eat til you're sleepy..... Sleep til you're hungry..... And repeat.....


      • #4
        Originally posted by FireFuss
        That's nothing new. At least not around here. Ran into a few state police that had some kind of hard-on for keeping traffic lanes open while we work. One incident the (24-25 year old) trooper was yelling at a lieut with 30 or so years on. A kind of "you don't yell at him" kinda guy. Luckily the chief arrived to "talk" to the statie until his supervisor got there. We've been told Philadelphia area isn't a coveted work area for the staties, and the senior officers take "other" assignments leaving us with all the fresh outta school, young *****, ego trip guys. Seems about spot on so far.

        ...which reminds me, isn't it like a 3rd degree felony to impede a fireman acting on his duties or something? I think it'd be funny to call the local police and have a state cop arrested for threatening to arrest you... heh
        Makes ya miss the "H" and "X" cars, huh????
        "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."


        • #5
          Makes me sick. Good for the Chief standing his ground. Next time shut down the highway.


          • #6
            I understand that the NYSP have decided to persue this case and prosecute the Chief.

            If that is the case, it will do more harm to the relationships between FD and PD than good...all over a ****ing match...

            This is a VERY scary thing for any FD and IC...yet another thing to worry about at a scene..."am I gonna get locked up if I shut this road down?"....and we wonder why there are so few good officers out there....the ones smart enough or the spot..are smart enough to not get made!
            FTM - BTB - KTF


            • #7
              Originally posted by NY911Bowhunter View Post
              I understand that the NYSP have decided to persue this case and prosecute the Chief.

              If that is the case, it will do more harm to the relationships between FD and PD than good...all over a ****ing match...
              It sucks that this PD/FD mess occurred but I think the Chief made the right decision. I'd rather go to court then a funeral..
              So you call this your free country
              Tell me why it costs so much to live


              • #8
                I'm in TN but have lots of family in New York. I've passed word to them and asked them to contact their state legislators and express their support for the Chief. If you know anyone in NY I encourage you to do the same.


                • #9
                  Sure, me too...but this WILL efect his life..personal and otherwise..as well as cost him and the department akataxpayes thousands of dollars...

                  Sad that the Trooper had to escalate it to that point.
                  FTM - BTB - KTF


                  • #10
                    I'm still shocked that this sort of nonsense continues....

                    Clearly the roads were unsafe, operating in the middle lane of traffic is idiotic without some sort of buffer.

                    We need better legislation offering protection to responders on the highway.
                    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

                    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

                    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."


                    • #11
                      This is one of the most idiotic and wasteful things I think I have seen.

                      I support the chief in his decision to close a lane for scene security. There is a reason we have move over laws. I was not there but I will not second guess the man for this.

                      What I don't understand is how the state police see this as an issue that they need to take to the courts. If you have concerns about how incidents are handled - have a meeting with the stake holders in this. Figure it out together. Why waste the courts time and money for this.


                      • #12
                        Anyone know who the Legislator is for this area?...may 'accidentally' see him/her next week and have a chat!


                        • #13
                          I hope when it is all said and done, the Chief sues like the one in Saint Louis County Missouri. Sooner or later they will get the idea.

                          If it does go to court, we need to have as many people there as possible. In the courthouse. Of course, it may tie up traffic with the need for parking.....


                          • #14
                            We got the law changed in Kansas

                            A couple years ago we got the state legistlature to change the law so the fire department is authorized to shut down a roadway for emergencies. Before that, it was only for fires and their was a few conflicts but never to the degree that I have read about in other areas. We also don't have the traffic in our area that others do......


                            • #15
                              Can you post a link to that law ? I hunted but struck out ?


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