[cifnmedia] Alcohol at Fire Stations Under Scrutiny

  • From: Sean & Kimberly Aaron <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: CIFN LIST <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 19 Nov 2003 20:50:31 -0800 (PST)

Updated: 11-19-2003 03:07:25 PM

Alcohol at Fire Stations Under Scrutiny

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Associated Press

Inside the Story

• Fire Marshal: Ban Alcohol in Fire Stations  
• History: Firefighter Charged with Homicide by Vehicle Had DUI  
• The Victim: Teen Lived Life to Its Fullest  
• Publisher Commentary: Charges That Hurt: Alcohol & The Fire Service • 
Goldfeder: What Can I Do?  
• Charges: Read the State Statutes  
• Download: Sample Fire Department Alcohol & Drug Policy • First Report: 
Fire Truck Driver Charged with DUI: Teen Firefighter Killed  
• Discuss: The Incident & Charges  
• Drill: How is Your Public Image?  
• Forums: Condolences for Huber  
• Web Link: Newcastle VFD  

More Coverage 

• Wyoming Firefighter To Enter Plea  
• Report: Firefighter Charged In Fatal Wyoming Accident Spent  
• Cody, Wyoming Volunteers Balk At Firehouse Alcohol Ban  
• Wyoming Tragedy Raises Spotlight on Firehouses and Alcohol  
• Idaho Fire Chiefs Say Alcohol Is Not A Problem ... Wyoming Death  
• Wyoming Fire Dept Against Firehouse Alcohol Ban  
TORRINGTON, Wyo. (AP) -- In some fire stations across the country, a couple of 
cases of beer may be found stacked in a fridge. In others, there are neon 
lights, full caches of liquor and even a bartender. 

Some fire chiefs say the alcohol is an important tool for recruitment and 
builds camaraderie, but policies that allow the consumption of beer and alcohol 
at fire stations are increasingly under scrutiny. 

Wyoming's governor wants to put an end to the drinking after two state 
firefighters were charged in separate drunk driving incidents, including one 
that killed a 16-year-old passenger _ who was a volunteer firefighter. 

``What is the rationale for having alcohol in a fire hall?'' Gov. Dave 
Freudenthal asked. He has joined state Fire Marshal Jim Narva in asking fire 
departments to voluntarily dump their alcohol policies before the matter is 
taken to the state Legislature. 

In the northwestern Wyoming city of Thermopolis, Fire Chief Mark Collins 
pleaded guilty to driving to a blaze in his personal vehicle while under the 
influence on July 9. He was ordered to pay $100 to the crime victim's fund. 

He also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of being an intoxicated pedestrian on a 
public highway and ordered to pay $30 in court costs. A fine of $200 was 
suspended and will only be paid if he violates probation, which includes a ban 
on alcohol consumption and breaking any other law. 

And in northeast Wyoming, the Newcastle Volunteer Fire Department voted to 
remove alcohol after 16-year-old volunteer Anndee Huber was killed May 22. 
Firefighter Ronald Caillier pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide. 

According to court documents, Caillier drank five 20-ounce beers in an hour and 
a half at a bar. The tanker he later drove crashed while headed to a grass fire 
south of Newcastle. The truck rolled and Huber was ejected and crushed. 

Jeff Morrissette, state fire administrator for Connecticut, said Huber's death 
has prompted a debate in his state over whether alcohol should be banned from 
fire houses. 

``That specific incident probably had worldwide repercussions,'' he said. ``It 
really made people take a step back and see what they were doing at a local 

Indeed, firehouse alcohol is not just a Wyoming issue. 

In Delaware, a firefighter has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his volunteer 
company retaliated against him after he attempted to stop underage drinking at 
a firehouse party. 

Earlier this year in Indiana, a fire chief was charged with drunken driving 
after a fire truck crash that injured a colleague. Last year in New Jersey, a 
fire chief was convicted of DUI after crashing his department vehicle while 
answering a call. 

Back in Wyoming, Riverton's Chief Drake said the two DUI incidents this year 
unfairly tarnished the reputations of volunteer firefighters. ``Half my 
department doesn't even drink,'' he said of his 49-member force. 

In Torrington, a southeast Wyoming farming community of 5,800 people, the 
27-member volunteer department has a strict policy against answering a call 
after drinking. 

Although Torrington fire officials are reviewing whether their bar should go, 
the fire chief there, Dennis Estes, noted that in both of the state's DUI 
cases, the alleged drinking occurred away from the fire halls. 

Hank Coe, a firefighter for 23 years and former Cody fire chief as well as a 
state senator, said alcohol is only brought out for social occasions, then 
strictly controlled. 

``These two incidences _ though very, very sad cases _ are still very isolated 
cases,'' he said. ``It's just a very, very small part of what goes on out 

Coe and Drake agreed that a ban on alcohol would hurt morale, something 
Riverton Fire Chief Bruce Drake echoed: ``When you risk your life for somebody 
every day, you need to have an association, a bond with them,'' he said. 

Reed Bush, Arlington, Va.-based co-author of the National Volunteer Fire 
Council report on recruitment and retention, said there is nothing wrong with 
having a social hall. But while camaraderie is very important, ``safety takes 
priority over anything,'' he said. 

Rather than sharing drinks, Bush suggests bowling nights or going to 
professional baseball games and picnics instead. 

The fact that any department serves alcohol is alarming, said Jerry Smith, a 
retired Los Angeles fire captain and advocate for firefighter rights and 

``My concern is, what is this doing to the image of firefighters _ the 343 
firefighters that gave their lives at the World Trade Center?'' he said. 
``These people who think drinking in the fire hall is so important, they're 
hurting us.'' 


Sean A. Aaron (CIFN*1)
Central Illinois Fire Network

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