Responding Volunteer Firefighter in Missouri Ticketed for Reckless Driving

A volunteer firefighter in Missouri who was responding to an emergency in his personal vehicle with lights and siren on, has been charged with reckless driving. Matt Ousley from the New Bloomfield Fire Protection District was cited on  Saturday, November 5, 2011 by the Holt Summit Police Department.

 Ousley contends that he was driving responsibly, although he admits to have been driving at 10 mph over the prescribed speed limit, and passing vehicles that had yielded the right of way. He and his fire chief, Dean Powell, insist he was operating within the legal limits prescribed for an emergency vehicle.

However, Assistant Police Chief Bryan Reid contends that the state law that grants certain privileges to emergency vehicles, does not apply to volunteer firefighters responding in their personally owned vehicles. He initially told reporters: “A first responder vehicle is not considered a full emergency vehicle…. By statute it is not exempt.”

Reporters from the local TV Station KMOU subsequently provided Reid with copies of the applicable statutes, indicating that a properly permitted POV displaying blue lights and equipped with a siren was an emergency vehicle. Here are copies of the applicable statutes

Not surprisingly, Reid then said even if Ousley’s POV was an emergency vehicle it was still operating recklessly. Interesting retort…. Perhaps he reconsidered the reasoning behind the issuance of the original ticket… realizing the hypocritical implications of saying a firefighter who mistakenly operates a POV as an emergency vehicle is “reckless”…. I won’t go there…. but think about it …

Incidentally, if Ousley is cleared, do you suppose the arresting officer will be charged with interfering with a firefighter in the performance of his duties?  IMHO – if police officers who improperly arrest firefighters in the performance of their duties are duly held responsible for their poor judgment, many of these unfortunate cases would disappear.

AND… to be brutally honest – reckless driving among all firefighters, career, volunteer, in apparatus or in POVs – cannot and should not be ignored or covered up. With that in mind we are following the vehicular homicide trial in Ohio of Portage Fire District firefighter Timothy Johnson for the July 16, 2010 death of Ian Huffman. Johnson was responding at the time and allegedly was traveling at speeds in the 98 mph range at the time of the accident.

More on the Ousley case.

More on the Johnson case.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
  • Johnathan Kane

    This is outrageous. The firefighter is in the right here. They need to grant firefighters immunity of reckless driving when responding to a call. F*#$ing crybabies


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