- Associated Press - Monday, September 7, 2015

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The Mat-Su Borough and the Talkeetna Fire Department are working to clear up confusion about when responders are on duty.

A firefighter’s termination this weekend amid an ongoing conflict about rules led to the acting fire chief’s resignation, KTUU-TV reported (https://bit.ly/1K1d8Ng).

Eric Chappel was in his personal vehicle when he heard a report on his radio about an overturned vehicle. He said he would “take a look,” and that he believes he was off the clock when he stopped to help.

“If I’m responding with the borough, I’m required to wear my fire gear, I’m required to wear a helmet, I’m required to wear a vest because I’m on the highway for safety reasons,” Chappel said. “I didn’t have any of that with me so I believe I’m a civilian at that time just helping another person.”

Borough officials had told Chappel not to respond to the call. He was terminated from the Talkeetna Volunteer Fire/Rescue Department by the Mat-Su Borough after the incident.

Mat-Su Borough Emergency Services director Bill Gamble says personnel in personal vehicles who happen on a scene can help without being an emergency responder.

“When somebody gets on the radio and says they responded to a call or they arrive on a scene and they give a size up of what has happened, what they see, what resources are needed then they are a responder,” Gamble said.

Gamble said the borough has to be careful.

“You can’t just be out there on the highway flipping vehicles back over,” he said. “There’s just a tremendous liability and risk in doing that.”

Both the fire department and the borough met Saturday to try to work out the issues. Attendees at a meeting of the Upper Susitna Community Council on Thursday asked for a full-time fire chief and improved leadership training.


Information from: KTUU-TV, https://www.ktuu.com

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