Last night in Chula Vista, California there was an accident on a freeway in which firefighters and police responded to and what happened next, well it truly falls into the WTH* file.
Apparently there was a territorial dispute between the California Highway Patrol officer on the scene and a firefighter.
According to this account in U-T San Diego, the CHP officer asked the firefighter, employed by Chula Vista, to move the fire engine out of traffic lanes. The firefighter is the engineer, or driver of the fire engine. He said that he had to go to check with his captain as they follow a chain of command. The CHP officer did not like that as Chula Vista fire chief, Dave Hanneman, relayed this quote from the officer according to the firefighter:
"No you need to move now or you'll be arrested."
As Chief Hanneman noted, the fire engine was parked behind an ambulance that was loading people involved in the accident inside. That is done because as Chief Hanneman said:
"Our firefighters are trained to use the engine to protect the scene. Our number one priority is the safety of our firefighters and patients."
According to Chief Hanneman, this is the first time that he has heard of such an incident in San Diego county but he has heard of such territorial disputes in other parts of California.
But that is not even the topper of this tale.
The officer proceeded to cuff the firefighter that he was talking with and put in in the back of his squad car. And the officer also ordered a fire-rescue crew from the city of San Diego to leave the accident scene.
For a third time, WTH?!
When supervisors from all departments arrived, the officer did release the firefighter.
Of course the job of the firefighter and the police officer are different and overlap at an accident scene. Usually the firefighters are there to ascertain the situation and determine if any of those involved in the accident need to be treated at the scene or hospitalized. In that case an ambulance or paramedic truck would be called to remove the people and get them to a nearby hospital.
The officers arrive to also ascertain the situation, investigate as much as they can about the possible cause, speak with those that can speak and very importantly to make sure that the scene is secured enough so the firefighter and rescue personnel can do their job.
The authority should be shared not one over the other.
But a clearly testosterone-infused CHP officer decided he would be the one to be in charge and show that he was the boss. He was so impressed with himself that he decided to handcuff the firefighter and put him in the back of his squad car. And to top it off, he decided to chase off other firefighters in a show of brainless he-man.
It is incidents like this in which the public will quickly and rightfully take sides. I can almost guarantee that most will take the side of the firefighters. And count me in on that.
There is no reason whatsoever for this to have escalated the way that it did.
The fact that supervisors have to be called in to referee this territorial dispute shows how absurd the situation got.
I am thinking that, God forbid, if this was a real emergency situation such as an earthquake and there was more than what happened in this particular would this have happened?
I should like to think not.
But this should make clear that the firefighters were correct to protect the other emergency personnel doing their job. It should also make clear that all personnel should work together and not with some pointless agenda.
The other takeaway from this is that firefighters are just more respected on the whole than police officers. Especially the California Highway Patrol.
Firefighters are seen as people that will do anything to save a building in a fire. Rescue people. Even rescue animals.
Police officers are seen, most of the time wrongly, as people that are filled with some kind of rage issues. Authority problems. Yes, color of authority problems as well.
I am certain more will come out of this incident and that may explain more of how the situation deteriorated.
In the meantime, its a total WTH moment, isn't it?
*WTH-What The Hell