On the evening of February 4, 2014 an officer of the California Highway Patrol arrested an on duty Chula Vista Fire Engineer in full turnouts and helmet while the Engineer was rendering medical aid to the victims of a roll-over accident on the south bound 805Freeway. The Fire Engineer had positioned a Fire Engine consistent with his training in a manner that was intended to protect the safety of the victims of the accident the accident as well as the emergency personnel on scene.
The unidentified officer arrived while fire crews were rendering aid. Witnesses state that just prior to the arrest, a different officer ordered a different Fire Engine carrying an on duty paramedic to leave the scene before the medical aid was finished. That Engine departed with the paramedic.
When the Fire Engineer refused to move his Fire Engine before it was safe to do so, the officer told the Engineer “you are under arrest.” He then arrested the engineer in front of local news cameras, which captured the arrest on film. The Engineer was lead to a CHP vehicle where the pockets of his uniform were searched and he was placed in the rear of the vehicle. He was kept handcuffed and locked inside the vehicle for a period of over ½ an hour and ultimately released with no apparent explanation.
“We are stunned.” Said Fire Engineer John Hess, President of the Chula Vista Firefighters Union. “When we arrive at an accident scene, we have consistently demonstrated a common interest in the safety and welfare of the accident victims and the emergency personnel on scene. Our Engineer parked his vehicle consistent with our standards and training. We cannot imagine what possible explanation could be given to justify this conduct by the CHP officer. This removed a valuable fire apparatus and crew out of service for approximately one hour. This occurred at the same time another Fire Engine was moved to San Diego to support their fatality structure Fire. We had two districts without service for over an hour. We trust that a full investigation into the matter will be conducted. We also appreciate Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales efforts to arrange a meeting between our firefighters and the Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol. This forward thinking will prevent this situation from ever happening again to another firefighter in the state of California.”
The attorney for the firefighters expressed similar disbelief. “When our office received the e mail link to the news footage of the arrest and viewed the story, every jaw literally dropped.” Said attorney Stuart Adams. “When law enforcement and fire get to a scene, they are all about the common business of protecting the victims and the crews present. I have never seen anything like it. But I know that the whole story is not yet out so we shall see what a full investigation reveals before taking any position on the matter.”
Chula Vista Fire Chief Dave Hanneman said in a statement “To detain one of our firefighters in the middle of an incident is ridiculous.” Chula Vista Fire Administration met this morning with representatives of the California Association of Highway Patrol to discuss the incident. The California Highway Patrol assured Fire Administration officials that an investigation would be undertaken. No charges have been filed against the Fire Engineer resulting from the arrest.