In the News

Fire patrol members in dispute with Tyrone, Three were removed but still have control of building, vehicle

By Phil Ray ( , The Altoona Mirror
February 15, 2013

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Three members of the Tyrone Fire Patrol have no legal right to serve as members of the borough fire police, according to a ruling Wednesday by Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan.

Nearly two years ago, Borough Council removed Ralph Stimer, Eugene Zimmerman and Thomas Fetters as fire police officers after passing an ordinance establishing eligibility standards and training requirements for the volunteer corps of fire police.

Fire police provide crowd and traffic control at accidents, fires or other tragedies.

Who is or is not a fire police officer in Tyrone has become a complex issue that led Sullivan to discuss ordinances addressing the subject that go all the way back to 1893.

The issue before Sullivan this week focused as to whether Borough Council could remove the three veteran Fire Patrol officers because they allegedly could not comply with the 2011 ordinance and after they had informed the borough that “they intended to take legal action to challenge the validity of the ordinance,” Sullivan said.

The men, through their attorney, Tim Burns, contended Pennsylvania’s Local Agency Law entitled them to a court review of the borough’s decision removing them as fire police.

As Sullivan explained, the three men “have asserted that they had a privilege or some personal right to continue serving as fire police officers.”

He ruled that they were unable to establish any such right.

Special fire police under the state’s Emergency Management Services Code are required to be members of a fire company that serves the borough and that members of the company nominate them to be special police, Sullivan concluded.

The evidence in the case shows the Neptune and Blazing Arrow Hook and Ladder fire companies, comprising the Tyrone Fire Department, withdrew their support for Stimer, Zimmerman and Fetters, Sullivan said.

That meant they did not meet the legal requirements for the job and therefore did not have “any expectation of continued employment in that position,” stated Sullivan.

He dismissed their requests for a hearing “with prejudice,” meaning they cannot bring it back before the judge.

Burns said, “Very respectfully I disagree with Judge Sullivan’s opinion.” He is to meet with the three men to determine if the judge’s order will be appealed.

The borough, he said, did not present any evidence to show the three men were not appropriately doing their jobs as fire police officers.

Regardless of the outcome of Sullivan’s decision, Burns and attorney Daniel L. Stants, representing Tyrone, agree that the issues between the Fire Patrol and the borough are far from over.

The Fire Patrol, represented by Stimer, Zimmerman and Fetters, has control of the 15th Street building where the fire police store their equipment and a vehicle.

Council, in another lawsuit, is asking Sullivan to have the building, the Fire Patrol’s financial accounts, and the vehicle, turned over to the borough.

“Our goal has been to restore the fire police as to what they were,” Stants said.

He said he doesn’t know how long it will take to resolve the dispute.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.

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