Firefighters are sworn public servants, similar to Police Officers. Because of this, people want to know if they have the same kind of authority and powers as cops. You may be curious if firefighters are able to pull you over on the road or arrest you.
In general, firefighters are not authorized to pull cars over while on the road. There have been a few rare cases of this happening, but it is not common at all. They can issue citations for certain infractions, but they are not usually related to driving violations.
Firefighters and cops have different responsibilities and different powers given to them to carry out their jobs. Let’s talk more about what exactly firefighters are allowed to do. Can they arrest you? Let’s find out.
Also read: Firefighter or Cop: Which Is a Better Job?
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Can Firefighters Pull You Over?
When driving on the road, you are expected to obey the laws that apply in your area. People that don’t obey these laws can be “pulled over” by law enforcement and given tickets or citations. Firefighters have different responsibilities for the most part.
When most people use the term “getting pulled over”, they are referring to a traffic stop. This is where police officers use their lights and sirens to signal you to move to the side of the road and stop. They will then talk with you about whatever law they think you broke. They may even give you a ticket.
However, they may force you to pull over to the side of the road and stop, as they approach with lights and siren. This is to allow them to respond quickly to an emergency and is not because you broke any laws.
In most areas, you are legally required to pull over for firefighters and other emergency vehicles when they have their lights and sirens on.
Tip: An emergency vehicle with it’s lights and sirens on is called “Code 3”. “Code 2” is when they are responding to a call, but without lights and sirens.
So, while firefighters may force you to pull over to the side of the road, they will not perform a traffic stop when you break the rules of the road. Except in very rare circumstances.
Can Fire Marshalls Pull You Over?
A Fire Marshal is different than other firefighters. They are usually focused less on the fire suppression and emergency response side of things and more on the fire prevention side.
The exact duties of a fire marshal will vary by state. Here is an idea of what they do:
“Fire marshals’ duties vary but usually include fire code enforcement or investigating fires for origin and cause. Fire marshals may be sworn law-enforcement officers and are often experienced firefighters.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_marshal
This video will give you a better idea of what a fire marshal job is like:
Unlike other firefighters, fire marshals can be sworn law enforcement officers. This gives them the same authority as other police officers to issue citations, close businesses, and even make arrests.
That being said, their priorities are very different than other law enforcement. So, while fire marshals technically have the authority to pull you over and make a traffic stop, they almost never will. This is not their area of expertise and responsibility.
Fire marshals can make arrests related to arson offenses and issue tickets or citations for breaches of the fire code. This even gives them the ability to shut down a business if it has safety related violations of the fire code.
Can Firefighters/Fire Marshals Give Tickets?
For the most part, firefighters don’t write tickets. That is a police responsibility in most areas.
As a firefighter, I’ll be honest, when we see someone driving recklessly, not respecting others on the road, or totally ignoring the emergency vehicles around them, I wish we could pull them over and give them a ticket.
However, that is not our job. If it’s bad enough we will let dispatch know to send a police officer out and they can give them a ticket.
There are examples of firefighters doing exactly that, but it seems like the tickets could be easily fought, as firefighters aren’t trained to make stops and give tickets.
This article talks about a firefighter in Sacramento pulling someone over for swerving. This is rare and advised against because firefighters don’t have the proper training and it could be very dangerous.
Fire marshals, on the other hand, can be sworn law enforcement officers, so they can definitely issue tickets or citations. However, they usually only do this in relation to fire safety and the fire code. They will leave traffic violations to the police.
Firefighters can also sometimes issue fire safety citations, but they have no real authority to enforce it. They can give you a fine, but if someone does not comply, they will get the fire marshal or police involved to enforce the violation.
Is it Illegal to Pass a Fire Truck with its Lights on?
In the US, you are required by law (in most areas) to yield to any emergency vehicles with their lights and sirens on. This generally means pulling over to the side of the road and coming to a complete stop.
However, the exact laws and how they are enforced will vary from one state to the next.
For example, in Oregon, the law says:
“Oregon Revised Statute No. 811.145 is the “failure to yield to emergency vehicle or ambulance” statute, and it pretty clearly states motorists must yield to an emergency vehicle with its lights and/or siren on. Failure to do so is a Class B violation that carries a $250 fine, according to statutes.”https://mailtribune.com/news/since-you-asked/passing-fire-truck-on-freeway-could-get-spendy
In California, (where I’m from), the law states:
“State law requires drivers to slow down and vacate the lane closest to a stationary emergency response vehicle flashing emergency lights if safe to do so. This includes tow trucks and Caltrans vehicles if displaying flashing amber warning lights, as well as waste service vehicles.”https://drivinglaws.aaa.com/tag/move-over-law/
Whether or not passing an emergency vehicle (like a fire truck) is preventing it from responding is kind of a gray area, but many police say they will ticket people for doing that. In general, you should not pass an emergency vehicle with its lights on.
Here is a list of specific laws by state, from the DMV, regarding yielding to emergency vehicles. Check your state laws so that you know how to obey the rules of the road in your area.
Can Firefighters Arrest You?
Most firefighters do not have the authority and training necessary to make an arrest. This is not in their job description and they will leave it to the police.
There have been incidents when firefighters arrested someone that they saw committing a crime, but there is a question of whether that will hold up in court.
In STATE of North Carolina v. Dorothy Hoogland VERKERK, the supreme court found her guilty of driving under the influence, even after she tried to get evidence thrown out based on the fact that it was firefighters who pulled her over.
So, firefighters will almost never arrest someone. Fire marshals though, do have the power to make arrests as they can be sworn law enforcement officers. They will do so, but usually only in incidents involving arson or other fire safety issues.
Firefighters are usually public employees, but they have very different priorities and responsibilities than police officers. As we have seen through this article, with the exception of fire marshal, firefighters generally aren’t going to make traffic stops, give tickets or make arrests.