BILL SUMMARY for SB09-013
SENATE COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
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01:36 PM -- Senate Bill 09-013
Senators Gibbs and Schwartz, bill sponsors, discussed the provisions of the bill. Senator Gibbs explained that the bill comes from the Interim Committee on Wildfire Issues in Wild Land-Urban Interface Areas. He indicated that two thirds of fire departments are staffed by volunteers. This bill exempts fire departments or other entities that donate surplus firefighting equipment from civil and criminal liability resulting from the use of that equipment. The bill also exempts volunteer firefighters from civil liability from an action taking while fighting a fire. Finally, Senator Gibbs explained that the bill exempts from liability state, county, or municipal agencies while engaged in disaster planning activities.
Senator Carroll asked about other statutes for good samaritans and whether volunteer firefighters would be covered under existing statutes. Senator Gibbs indicated that he believed that they were not covered. The committee then discussed whether this bill includes paid firefighters or only volunteers and whether this exempts these individuals from any negligence when performing their job. The committee discussed the immunity provisions and how and to whom they may apply.
01:49 PM -- Paul Cooke, representing the Colorado State Fire Chiefs Association, spoke in support of the bill. He indicated that some departments are reluctant to donate equipment to needy volunteer fire departments, and as a result, equipment may be more likely to go to another country rather than to a fire department in the state. He also noted that the bill attempts to address incident management teams that handle emergencies at the state level. Mr. Cooke indicated that there is some concern about liability for those incident management teams. Finally, the bill seeks to provide some immunity protection for volunteer firefighters who would not be covered under governmental immunity protections. Senator Carroll asked about the specific provisions of the bill. Senator King expressed his reservations concerning the bill.
02:01 PM -- Jeff Berino, representing Lake Dillon Fire Department and the Northwest Incident Management Team, spoke in support of the bill. He discussed donations of fire equipment. He explained that the legal counsel in his department has advised his department not to donate used fire equipment. He noted that some of their equipment has been donated to Cambodia. The issue, according to Mr. Berino, is that the donated equipment does not meet current safety standards, but for volunteer departments without equipment, this equipment is better than no equipment. He also discussed the provisions of the bill concerning incident management teams. Senator Hudak asked about the provisions in the bill concerning local emergency planning commissions and the need for liability for these groups. Senator Carroll discussed alternatives to addressing the issues in the bill, including attempting to change the standards process. Mr. Berino discussed the difficulties associated with the standards process.
Senator King asked about the equipment that could not be donated to another fire department in the United States, but could be sent to Cambodia. Mr. Berino explained that the equipment that was donated was the clothing worn during fire fighting, ground ladders, and breathing apparatus. He noted that the danger is not to the public, but to the firefighters.
02:18 PM -- Don Angell, representing the Fairmount Fire Protection District, spoke in support of the bill. He explained that his fire department is a small combination fire department, staffed with mostly volunteers. He discussed the current issues with donating equipment. Mr. Angell also discussed the jurisdictional issues for the incident management teams.
02:29 PM -- Jeff Jahnke, representing the Colorado State Fire Service, spoke in support of the bill. He explained that there is a great need for volunteer firefighters and they want to do everything they can to encourage people to volunteer. He expressed a similar sentiment concerning the donated equipment.
Chairman Morse laid the bill over for action only at a future committee meeting.