Fire Police

What Is A Fire Police Officer's Job?

Fire Police in Pennsylvania are Volunteer Fire Company members, sworn in by the Mayor or Borough Council President, Township supervisor or the local District Justice of the Peace. They come under direct control of the Local Police or Pennsylvania State Police (if no local dept is available).

Fire Police will control the flow of traffic to ensure emergency vehicles have a quick, safe entrance and egress to the incident. They may halt traffic, block a road or detour you in another direction, because of the situation and the dangers involved. They are not there to make you late for work, dinner, or a date. They are taking orders from the police authority in charge.

All Fire Police Officers are sworn officers of the law and when on duty shall display a badge of authority and shall be subject to control of the chief of police of the city, borough, town or township in which they are serving, or if none, of a member of the Pennsylvania State Police

The History of Fire Police Officers

The first fire police officers in the state of Pennsylvania were appointed in Meadville, Crawford County, in 1896. These first fire police officers had no authority other than that which could be provided by their fire company and the municipality in which they served. No legal recognition or authority was granted to Special Fire Police officers in the Commonwealth of Pa until 1941.  The Commonwealth of PA in June of 1941 passed a law (Title 35) enabling Special Fire Police Officers to have the necessary police power to provide protection.

Fire Police were legally created to act in emergency situations and then only when their fire department was involved. Title 35 was amended in 1949, 1959 and again in 1980. (Act 74, 388, 209, 122) These changes widened the scope of authority of the fire police. In 1949 the law was amended (Act 388) to give fire police power to act without fire company involvement, providing a request to do so was made by the municipality.

In 1959 (Act 209) the law was again amended to allow fire police to use their police powers in any (non-emergency) public function conducted by or under the auspices of any volunteer fire company. Such services were contingent upon a request by the municipality. The provision for municipal request for such services, when the fire company was involved, was later removed from the law.

The provision to allow fire police to use their police power in non-emergency events was later amended to authorize these officers to provide police services for organizations other than a volunteer fire company. For fire police to perform this type of duty a request was and is, required. In 1980 (Act 122 - current law) was amended to prohibit at any time, the use of weapons by fire police officers.

Delivering Service to Our Community

While most people think that Fire Police are just firefighters, these amendments widened the scope of authority of Fire Police in PA, to have limited police powers. Although they have no authority to make arrests, they do have the right to detain someone, within reason. They have earned the right to wear their 'badge of authority'.
They are highly skilled and trained in their vocation and have their oath on file with their local municipalities. Disobeying a Fire Police Officer is the same as disobeying a Police Officer, Sheriff's Deputy or State Trooper and assaulting one is a felony.

Duties of Fire Police

  • Regulate traffic at fires and fire department calls. This  includes traffic control at the scene of any emergency to which Harleysville Community Fire Co. has been called, until discharged by your chief, or the local police agency.
  • Protect firefighters while fighting fires.
  • Our main objective is to provide the adequate protection for the firefighters so that they may do their job without interference of others.
  • Protect the general public at the scene of a fire.
  • Residents, owners, occupants, relatives, transients, spectators, and even the news media tend to hamper the operations. Tact and courtesy will be employed to keep them safe and away from harm or obstructing fire operations.
  • Keep fire areas clear for fire fighting.
  • Apparatus, emergency vehicles, service vehicles, and firefighters' personal vehicles all need room to park, operate within, turn around, run tanker operations and lay hose lines for fire fighting operations. We will always try to keep this space available and clear.
  • Protect the equipment of our fire company and our neighboring fire companies.
  • Keep all non-firefighters away from, and especially off of, department vehicles, and away from equipment. We won't  allow anyone to damage any equipment.
  • Prevent looting at the scene of a fire or emergency
  • Enforce the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania relating to fire department activities, fire fighting techniques and emergency vehicle driving.
  • Prevent the reckless disregard for safe driving within an emergency area, driving over fire hoses, spectators disrespect for fire lines and non-emergency vehicle intrusions.
  • Cooperate with all regular police agencies.
  • We are all there for the same purpose and reasons - to provide protection, safety, and to prevent a situation from getting out of hand. Therefore we must cooperate with each other by working together effectively and efficiently.
  • Protect the property at the scene of a fire until the Chief releases him from duty and turns the responsibility over to other police agencies or to the owner.
  • Allow no one to enter within the scene without proper identification or credentials. Be alert. We may see or hear something from a person that may have a direct bearing upon the situation. Protect the scene's evidence, and report unusual events or happenings.
  • Assist the Chief at all fires and emergencies.

The fire chief is in charge of the fire department when called to duty. The fire police take direction from the fire chief when on the scene of most fires and other emergencies. The local police will usually dictate the duties of the fire police when control of traffic or a crime scene is required. (In Pennsylvania the Chief of Police of the local municipality has full authority of the Fire Police when at a scene without the fire department.)

Fire Police Code of Ethics

  • As a fire police officer my fundamental duty is to serve mankind as I protect my brother firefighters in their efforts to save life and property. To this end:
  • I will be alert and constant in my duties at all times.
  • I will be constantly mindful of the welfare and rights of others.
  • I will be impartial in my treatment of all persons coming under my jurisdiction.
  • I will be firm, but also courteous and helpful to all and my feelings shall not influence my decisions.
  • I will never be vulgar or profane in my speech or actions when on duty.
  • I will cooperate fully with my superiors, fellow officers, and all law enforcement agencies to provide greater protection to the public and the fire department I serve.
  • I will strive to become more proficient in my duties as a fire police officer by diligent study and training at every opportunity.
  • I will regard my badge of a fire police officer as a symbol of trust from my state, community and my fire department and act accordingly.
  • I will constantly strive to obtain these objectives as I serve as a fire police officer.

A Fire Police Prayer

Almighty God our savior, whenever I am dispatched to serve my fellow man in times of need, I ask you,

To give me the strength and guidance to be ever alert and to be consistent within the discharge of my duties,

To be ever mindful of the welfare and safety of all I have been sworn to protect and serve,

To be fair and impartial in the treatment of all persons with whom I come in contact,

To be courteous and never be profane in words or deeds while on duty,

To strive to always be proficient with the talents which you have given me, and to always have the willingness to serve.

And, if during my service to others in times of need, it is your will that I lay down my life, bless always, with your love and guidance, my family and those I leave behind.