Following Passage of Fire Ordinance, Tobyhanna Township Files Suit to Stop TTVFC from Providing Services

Labels Fire Company ‘Rogue Outfit’, Says It Poses A Danger

Less Than 24 Hours before Hearing, Township Requests Mediation

SEP 19 2022, 5:45pm

POCONO PINES (Tobyhanna Township) – The ink was barely dry on the newly-minted Tobyhanna Township Fire Ordinance when the supervisors decided to sue the Tobyhanna Township Volunteer Fire Company (TTVFC) to prevent it from responding to fire emergencies in the township.

As reported elsewhere in these pages, in early August, the TTVFC gave supervisors written notice that they would give up their “designated” status – along with the fire tax funding that came with it – to avoid what they considered the “government overreach” of that new ordinance.

The company repeatedly said that they would continue to fight fires in the township whenever dispatched despite not receiving any funding from the supervisors.

Registered fire companies in Pennsylvania are permitted to respond to fires notwithstanding their official status if the county 911 dispatchers call on them.

The TTVFC has historically covered 83% of the township, while the other designated company, the Pocono Summit crew, covered the remaining 17%.

Saying they would not abandon their fellow residents, the TTVFC said they would continue to serve if called. To prepare to continue to serve, the fire company says it secured its own workers compensation insurance to replace the township policy, which no longer covered them.

On August 23 supervisors received another letter from the TTVFC attorney re-affirming that the company is willing to continue to respond in a “mutual aid” capacity, without any funding from the township, until the differences were worked out.

The supervisor’s response came in the form of the lawsuit filed the next day.

The supervisors have publicly conceded that the TTVFC is an effective and efficient fire-fighting force. They have also said they do not have any reason to doubt the financial propriety of the company.

The TTVFC has also been rated by an independent body in the uppermost ranks of fire companies in Pennsylvania, and in the nation as a whole.

Yet in the August 24 lawsuit the township disparages the company as a “rogue” outfit, a “guerrilla fire company”, and paints the ‘mutual aid’ proposal as somehow ‘dangerous’ without providing any explanation or detail about the supposed ‘danger’.

They ask the court to issue an injunction to stop the TTVFC from helping put out fires in the township.

Meanwhile, the township has reportedly made plans to bring in up to half a dozen fire companies from other towns to service the TTVFC territory on a mutual aid basis.

It has not explained how that arrangement is acceptable, whereas the same relationship with TTVFC is “dangerous.” The supervisors claim response times from firefighters outside the township would not suffer.

In addition, the township wants the court to turn ownership of the TTVFC vehicles and equipment to the township, to conduct an audit of the fire company books, receipts, and expenditures, prevent the company from using it’s vehicles, and to evict it from the station houses, among other things.

Neither the complaint nor the township’s brief in support identify any specific harm the township has or will suffer, or any specific misuse or misallocation of funds by the fire company.

A county judge set a hearing on the township petition for September 14.

However, the day before the hearing was to occur, the township filed paperwork asking the court to delay the hearing and appoint a mediator to facilitate negotiations with the TTVFC. The fire company agreed to the proposal and the court granted the request.

The judge said he would be appointing a mediator and setting the framework for the mediation proceedings.

The parties will have thirty days to resolve the matter or proceed to the injunction hearing,

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