Fire Police


Active member
Hey gang, in my state, we have "fire police" that are designated to direct traffic at scenes so the PD is released to other more important duties. We have been having a MAJOR problem with them in recent years. Some of the old timers are cool, they know us and know the rules but the youngsters and newbies are frequently on power trips. I am done with having arguments with them on the scene over access, the rules as set forth by the state police are clear, if the local fire police person wants to get bent outa shape over me and my camera, so be it, we can duke it out in court AFTER the incident is over. What kind of probelms like this do you encounter in your town and how do you handle these situations? After 12 years as a shooter, I am getting a little tired of rednecks waving a flare in the air and acting like they are the secret service and the president is at that accident up ahead! :eek:


I've generally found they are following the orders from their chief. I've pretty much figured out which departments are going to behave how in a given situation, though I have run into a couple of situations where one was obviously operating on his own ideas. My usual approach if they hold me out is to ask them to contact the OIC or incident command and tell them the media is here. PSP generally will not allow media on scene to a fatal or extrememly critical, ax if they are reconstructing until their investigation is pretty well wrapped up. At fire scenes, I usually don't have much of an issue, sometimes have to walk the last bit in, but that isn't necessarily a problem, prevents getting blocked in by half a dozen tankers on a narrow rural road.
I've only had two real problems, one where the FP officer felt I needed to get permission from his chief to even shoot the scene - that one I politely pointed out to him that legally , no I didn't need his chiefs permission, but I wasn't going to argue the point with him since I alreay had everything I needed. I suggested if his department was operating under the misconception that the media needed permission to shoot the scene from the public right of way half a block from the scene ( I had already goten some closer shots ) that they probably should educate themselves on the laws before they ended up on the bad end of a law suit when they tried that on the wrong person.


Well-known member
Ditto what Raptor said.

No matter how frustrated you get, most of these guys will work with you and get things resolved faster as long as you stay level-headed.

If they don't give at all, try another side street and see if that FP is cool. Or start recording and walk past them. They're allowed to stop cars, but not persons. They do not have the authority to physically stop you. If they lay a hand on you, and you get it on tape, it's over for them.

Luckily, I just moved from PA to MO. No FP here!


Well-known member
I'm in Cleveland. I've never encountered a fire police roadblock. What area are you in, Stormgod? Maybe it's your county or city only?

I agree with Woodsie. THere's usually always another way to the scene.


Well-known member
Stormgod, are these like 'official' fire police or are these just the oldest guys in the department who stand there and direct traffic?

I've run into the dudes who think they run it all, but really don't...I'd be scared if there were some that really do have that power...


Stormgod and I are both in PA, and yes, the Fire Police here do have police powers when either their department is involved on the scene, or when acting at the request of a municipality. We have two types of fire polioce here in my area, the one group is department specific, the other is sanctioned by the county for county wide operations. They often provide traffic control for special events, at the local minor league baseball field etc. But they do have police powers when on the scene. Quite often when there is a large power outage here in the city, the PD will initially do traffic control, then have the fire police dispatched to maintain intersections, leaving the 'real' officers free to continue patrol. For Stormgod, here is an interesting little tidbit of history on the fire police in PA.

The first fire police officers in the state of Pennsylvania were appointed in Meadville, Crawford County in 1896. They had no authority other than that which could be provided by their fire company and the municipality in which they served. Legal recognition, Title 35, Act 74 of June, 1941, was passed to grant Special Fire Police officers necessary police power to provide such protection. Fire Police could only act in emergency situations ONLY when their fire department was involved. In 1949, Act 388 was passed and Fire Police were given power to act without fire company involvement, providing a request to do so was made by a municipality.

[ October 23, 2005, 12:52 PM: Message edited by: Raptor ]


Originally posted by SeagateNews:
Stormgod's thing said he is from Ohio...

Sorry, I was confused.
No I think he is LOL.... If he hasn't figured out who this is yet, he will eventually... He is pretty close to OH, and one of the stations he has shot for is in OH, so maybe that is why....


Well-known member
The only firefighters doubling as police officers here in California I have ever encoutered are a couple of guys from Ontario and San Bernardino, but they are mainly SWAT team medics with full post certification and of course Ontario Airport Police (Los Angeles World Airports) double as firefighters. They work the first 6 hours of their shift as firefighters and the last 6 as patrol officers.
I too live in PA. I have had my share of Fire Police run ins, including a Fire Cop who phsyically escorted me away from a scene. This was when I was younger. Now that I'm older and some what smarter (LOL) I found that at times its easier to pull up to them and tell them that I'm here and let them ask if I can have "permission" to be there. This makes them feel important and I sometimes get an escort right to the scene or they tell me where to park and I end up walking in. I have also found that if I go out to the firehouse and talk to the chief, give them a copy of fire or wreck that they were on, I get awhole lot easier access the next time I show up.
Also if a fire cop gives me a hard time, I'll go and talk to the chief the next day and get things worked out. I also provide the fire company with a copy of the US Constitution and a copy of the fire police laws from the state of PA and politely point out that this fire cop was in violation of the law

hunt tv

Here is an interesting ruling:

I don't even respond to the fire calls in this upstate NY village anymore. After the court ruling they have become a nation unto themselves. I know many of the firefighters and they're great...but the guys holding the orange coned carefull!!



Well-known member
Here, if I don't get to a BIG fire before METRO blocks the roads, they pretty much ignore me as long as I am on foot.

Once inside the firefighters could care less what I am doing and where I am at as long as I am not in the way.

I can understand keeping vehicle traffic out, since they could impeed the passage of an ambulance, fire truck, whatever. But I have never understood why they care if the media goes in on foot.

It's a fire... What photog is going to walk into a burning building for video? Sure as hell isn't going to be me or any others with any brains. (Those who have proper clothing and whatnot are excluded).

Accidents here are pretty much the same. As long as we stay behind the tape (for fatals, since we don't cover any others) they ignore us. NHP I think has been spending some time with CHP. lol... I've had troopers take me right up to the crash (after the measurements are done) and let me shoot whatever I want (body 10 feet away even).

Only problem we have with the police are homicides and standoffs. Sorry I drifted off topic...


Well-known member
Cleveland cops are pretty cool. They'll let us walk up if we get to a scene after they block off a road. Sometimes they'll let you drive past to park, but you better park near the cruiser.

The firemen are always cool. They just want us to stay across the street. As long as we're not in the way and they're not going after a huge fire, they're pretty cool with us.

It really is common sense. Generally the feel of the situation is what I go by to get to the scene. I've never been refused from going to a fire.

[ October 30, 2005, 04:11 PM: Message edited by: Newshutr ]
How about this one guys,

I was on my way to a double fatal axy on a country road in the middle of nowhere, reporter got us a little lost go figure, as I go to pull onto the road where the event occurred a 1970's chevy suburban comes flying over the hill yellow lights going, cuts me off and waves his index finger at me.

I laughed a little.

He informs me that I cannot go down there because there are "BODIES EVERYWHERE". I inform him that we already have a photog down at the scene and he is standing next to the PIO for the county. His response is "whos that".

I laugh again.

By this point I don't really care anymore to argue so I just called my fellow photog at the scene and told him to tell the PIO to please call off the redneck resistance, almost instantly our captor released us and apologized about three times as we drove off.

The moral of this story is just laugh at rednecks on power trips and go over their heads.

But seriously how do you guys handle rednecks, newbies, and meatheads with no "real" authority at spot news events?


Active member
Hey put me on tv, where can I get one of those rule books for the fire cops?
I believe that most of the problems come from newbies, the older guys seem to be pretty cool and many of them have actually told me where I can get a better shot/angle etc.
I do shoot in both Ohio, PA and NY. So that shold tell you where Im at.
I do not deliberately try to give these people a hard time, after 23 years as a Firefighter, I have alot of respect for them but I wont put up with abuse. One thing I have done recently that has paid big benefits is when I get stopped at a distant road block, say...a 1/4 mile from scene or more, when proceding on to the scene, I will ask the firecop if they need me to bring them back drinks, coffee or flares or whatever since they are tied down to their post and Im headed for the command post. This makes friends in a hurry! As for the alternate routes, here in hilly W. PA., somethimes there simply aint no other route in and the locals know those back roads better then we will ever know them.
Stormgod, Sorry it soooo long to reply. You have to get a copy of the Pa Statues try your local library and look for the following P.A. Act of 1941, P.L. 137, No. 74 Amended July 11,198O. P.L. 580, No. 122

Title 35

§ 1201. Nomination and confirmation; powers.
§ 1202. Powers in another city, borough, town or township.
§ 1203. Badge; control.

Title 75 Sections 3327 and 3102

here is what the fire cops in my local area gave me. They say its very limited since Pa doesn't have all of its laws and statues on the web so this is not very good info but here is what they sent me

1201. Nomination and confirmation; powers.

Any volunteer fire company in any city, borough, town, township or home rule municipality may nominate any of its members as special fire police. All special fire police so nominated shall, before they enter upon their duties as such, be confirmed by the mayor of the city, the mayor of the borough or town, the chairman of the board of commissioners or supervisors of the township, or the chief executive officer of a home rule municipality, as the case may be. When so confirmed and sworn and displaying a badge of authority they shall have full power to regulate traffic and keep crowds under control at or in the vicinity of any fire on which their companies are in attendance and to exercise such other police powers as are necessary in order to facilitate and prevent interference with the work of firemen in extinguishing fires and, in addition, shall have the police powers necessary to perform their duties when functioning as a special fire police at any function, event, or parade conducted by, and under the auspices of, any volunteer fire company, or any other event, function, or parade conducted by an organization other than a volunteer fire company, providing the request to perform these duties is made by the governing body of the city, borough, town, township, or home rule municipality, in which the event will be conducted, or when accidents, floods or any other emergencies require performance of such traffic control and crowd control duties. Such duties may be performed without prior request from the governing body until the arrival of proper State, city borough, town, township, or home rule municipality, police authority until the emergency no longer exists. A person functioning as special fire police, and performing a duty under any of the above conditions, shall be deemed to be performing the duties of his employment. Fire police performing such duties shall be identifiable by, at minimum, the wearing of a distinctive arm band or hat or uniform or insignia. Under no circumstances shall this act be construed to grant special fire police the right and/or power to use firearms or other weapons in the exercise of special fire police powers granted hereunder.

1202. Power in another city, borough, town or township.

Whenever any volunteer fire company is in attendance on a fire, or when such special fire police are on special duty as herein before provided, such special fire police in any city, borough, town or township other than the one in which such fire company is organized shall have the same power and authority in such other city, borough, town or township as they would have in that by which they were appointed.

1203. badge; control.

All special fire police when on duty shall display a badge of authority and shall be subject to the control of the chief of police, if any of the city, borough, town or township in which they are serving, or, if none, of a member of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Follow this link to Lancaster County's Fire Police Assoc and it has the law there. From what I can interpet that the Fire police can control a crowd in the "Vicinity" of a fire or emergency, Its very very vague,
so as you can see, the Pa state laws/statues are very very vague, I interpet "in the Vicinity" as being able to see smoke and flames or the car accident, aparently some fire police interpet "in the vicinity" as no less than a 100 square mile radius from the scene LOL
To be the Devil's Advocate...


The Fire Police are volunteers who get paid nothing. They are volunteering to help the community in which you or I live. They are told what to do and they follow it. This doesn't make them less of a person or a goober. It is a classic case of please don't shoot the messenger.


Well-known member
We have a similar problem, albeit more rural, here in Colorado. When we have wildfires, it's almost impossible to get anywhere near a scene unless you've got a helicopter; so what you get, mostly, is a helmet-and-fire-jacket-clad reporter standing five miles away from a column of smoke billowing up from a mountain. Not very sexy stuff. Frustrated during a fire last summer, I donned the USFS-supplied Nomex gear, then drove my personal car up to the checkpoint where two deputies stood. "You guys want any of this bottled water I'm taking up there?" I asked. Grateful, they snagged a couple bottles of Arrowhead and waved me through. I was able to get the best footage that aired that night. So I guess what I'm saying is it helps to be creative. (I didn't lie to the deputies... I did have water in my car and I WAS taking it up to the fire with me)