Local Fire Marshal Shuts Down Road Construction

Today’s burning question: I am the local fire district’s fire marshal and a contractor just erected signage indicating they plan to shut down a key road in order to do some construction. The contractor has permission from the state and county, but did not inform us at the local level. The closure will result in a 10-mile detour for our fire apparatus to reach parts of our response area. The fire chief and I consider this to pose an unreasonable hazard to folks on the other side of the construction in the event of a fire. Can I issue an emergency stop work order?

Answer: That is exactly what a fire marshal in Oregon did earlier this month. Fire Marshal and Division Chief Jeff Pricher of the Scappoose Fire District and Columbia River Fire and Rescue issued an emergency stop work order against Tapani, Inc. The contractor was replacing a sewer line on East Columbia Avenue in the City of Scappoose.

Tapani secured the necessary approvals from state and county officials, but neglected to inform local emergency responders. Officials from the City of Scappoose were aware the project was planned but were not aware the work was imminent nor were they aware of the plans to detour traffic. The first notice local firefighters had was when the road closure signs were posted.

The Columbia County Spotlight quoted Chief Pricher as saying: “The lack of information provided to the public and first responders is highly unusual.” The project has been placed on hold while the parties work out the details.

More on the story.

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.

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