Veteran Firefighter: CHP Cuffing Engineer at Scene Was "Shocking"

An 18-year veteran firefighter from a different department with the same job of driving the fire trucks reacts to the handcuffing of an engineer at a crash scene

By Dave Summers
|  Thursday, Feb 6, 2014  |  Updated 12:01 PM PDT
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NBC 7's Dave Summers talks with an 18-year veteran of a San Diego County-area fire department about a CHP officer detaining a firefighter at a crash scene.

NBC 7's Dave Summers talks with an 18-year veteran of a San Diego County-area fire department about a CHP officer detaining a firefighter at a crash scene.

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The handcuffing a Chula Vista firefighter at an accident scene has prompted a strong reaction among other emergency personnel across the U.S., specifically one 18-year veteran firefighter.

A California Highway Patrol officer detained the firefighter at the crash scene along Interstate 805 near Telegraph Canyon  Road Tuesday night.

A car had rolled through construction, injuring two people. Chula Vista Fire Engineer Jacob Gregoire was detained after refusing to move Fire Engine 52 which was protecting medics working the scene.

Photos and Videos

CHP Cuffs Firefighter at Crash Scene

A Chula Vista firefighter ended up in handcuffs at the site of a car crash Tuesday night. The California Highway Patrol officer said the fire engine was blocking the road, but the firefighter said it was protecting the crash victims. CHP and Chula Vista Fire met for a discussion on Wednesday. NBC 7’s Omari Fleming has the outcome of that meeting.

Fire Chief Explains Firefighter Detained

Fire Chief Dave Hanneman with Chula Vista Fire Department explains the protocol for parking a fire engine at an accident scene.
More Photos and Videos

The firefighter, who we'll call Allen, wished not to be identified to avoid retribution but was compelled to give his take on what happened to Gregoire.

“It is shocking that the safety of a citizen or those of us rendering aid would be put in jeopardy just to have a lane in the freeway open,” Allen said.

Over fire communications you here another firefighter reporting what was happening.

"This is ridiculous. CHP is arresting Engineer Gregoire for where he spotted the fire engine. We're in the middle of patient care with patients on the freeway and we're trying to protect our scene," one of the firefighters said on the scanner.

Allen said an arrest or detention is rare but friction between departments does occur because CHP has the added responsibility of getting the highway open as soon as possible. It can create a conflict of commitment.

“I would go to jail. I would definitely stand up and make a stand for the safety of my crew,” Allen said.

Despite going into burning buildings, Allen said working on the highway is the most dangerous job of firefighters.

Unfortunate as this incident was, he says better communication between jurisdictions is the likely outcome.

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The CHP and Chula Vista Fire chiefs released a joint statement Wednesday afternoon, calling the incident unfortunate and saying it was isolated and not representative of how the two agencies usually work together.

The chiefs said this incident will be the topic of a future joint training session.

Gregoire, 36, is a 12-year veteran of the Chula Vista Fire Department.

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