Sisolak questions off-duty firefighters’ use of county vehicles while doing charity work

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Yasmina Chavez

Firefighters prepare for their fundraiser, “Fill The Boot,” on Friday April 13, 2012 at the corner of Rainbow and Flamingo .

Mon, Apr 16, 2012 (2 a.m.)

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Firefighters prepare for their fundraiser, "Fill The Boot," on Friday April 13, 2012 at the corner of Rainbow and Flamingo .

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak is questioning off-duty firefighters’ use of county fire trucks as they solicit donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association at valley intersections.

Sisolak — whose criticism helped spur a department policy change prohibiting firefighters from doing charitable work while on duty — has placed an item on Tuesday’s commission agenda to air questions about the use of department trucks, which some complain makes it appear firefighters aren’t abiding by the policy.

At least one county resident has written Sisolak, complaining that it appears firefighters are collecting donations while on the job.

“I was under the impression that the Clark County Fire Department was no longer going to be collecting donations while on duty,” John Carter wrote in an email a week ago. “Today, (April 6) … Heavy Rescue was at Sahara and Decatur. While there were numerous members and some may have been off duty, some were wearing their gear and the truck was parked there in the dirt lot on the northeast corner (which is actually Las Vegas).”

Sisolak looked into it and said the department has 17 reserve vehicles, which are used when other fire vehicles are out of service. They are also used for parades and other events.

Sisolak said the chief isn’t bothered by the use of those vehicles by off-duty firefighters, but Sisolak is and wants the County Commission to talk about whether that policy should be changed. His concern is liability.

“If one of the off-duty firefighters gets into an accident, does the county have to pay for it because it’s a county vehicle?” he asked. “I hope the firefighters are collecting a lot of money. But we have to look at this policy.”

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Firefighters fundraising on the corner of Rainbow and Flamingo for "Fill The Boot" on Friday April 13, 2012.

Firefighters are also walking between cars with fire boots asking motorists for money, Sisolak said. The county prohibited them from doing that a few years ago, when they were still fundraising while on the clock. In response, they shifted to collecting in front of supermarkets and other locations.

Carter wondered why firefighters should be allowed to “beg on the roads” since other citizens might get ticketed for doing the same.

In fact, 22 years ago, Republican Assemblyman Brad Goetting, who was a firefighter, sponsored a bill that let local governments adopt ordinances to allow charitable solicitation from street medians.

There’s no telling how the seven members of the commission will see the reserve-vehicle issue. But commissioners have become increasingly willing to challenge firefighters in recent years, especially after recent reports found sick leave dropped by huge percentages after two firefighters were fired for abusing sick-leave.

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