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On-call MI firefighter takes story to TV after being fired for going directly to deadly crash scene. Was already on probation for violating department rules.

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Former Columbia Township, Michigan on-call firefighter Michael Freislinger told WOOD-TV the night of a deadly crash where a woman and two children died he “was not acting as a firefighter” when he went to the scene. He claims he was a just a good Samaritan who happened to hear of the accident on his scanner and went to help out law enforcement or medics in any way he could. Freislinger says he didn’t have any gear with him.

Freislinger told reporter Ryan Takeo he is now considering legal action against the Columbia Township Fire Department for firing him for violating department protocal that only allows the chief, assistant chief and captain to go directly to the scene of an incident instead of the firehouse. The firehouse was 9.2 miles away from Freislinger while the scene of the November 13 wreck in Van Buren County’s Geneva Township was half that distance.

Citing policy, the department’s chief did not comment on the story for WOOD-TV.

Here’s more:

“I heard all this stuff going on the police scanners — that there were children involved and there were bodies all over the place. So I went to the scene and gave a hand, whether it be with traffic with the police or CPR with the medics on scene,” said Frieslinger. 

Freislinger admitted he has gone straight to scenes before and was on probation violating other department rules, all of which he disputes. 

He said he doesn’t want his job at Columbia Township back. “Just a clean slate so I can put in my applications in other departments,” he said.

Freislinger went to Tuesday evening’s township board meeting to try and get his record cleared. He said the township supervisor told him the board is investigating.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • 95%er

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and speak for the entire American Fire Service for just a second:

    Boy, we don’t want you or your kind. You have no place in the fire service. If you can’t follow the most basic of rules, you are no good to us and just get in the way. If you think more of yourself then the rules and regulations of your agency, and obviously you feel that YOUR presence on the scene is more useful than ANY other first responder, you are the type of person we DON’T need.

    So, on behalf of the American Fire Service, you application is hereby permanently DENIED!

    • Anonymous

      First get off you high and mighty soap box. I work full time in the fire service as well as member of my local call department and for you to say you speak for the entire American Fire Service is just wrong. You are in title to your opinion I will give you that. I do agree that Rules and Regs are there for a reason but there are time that you need to do what is best for the people you serve. If getting to the scene quicker when seconds count and you might be able to provide life saving CPR or give medical care then I feel you should. The fire service is made up of many gray area and I will say it again we need to do what best for the communities we serve.

      • CHAOS

        Stay in school … or go back. Hopefully, your employer has someone else that fills out formal incident reports.

        And, yes, we are all “entitled” to our opinions.

      • RJ(in florida)

        According to the story, the guy is only CPR certified. If he was an EMT i’d would have given him a pass BUT not being an EMT and trained to handle trauma, all the CPR in the world aint gonna do any good because anybody with a EMS brain knows that trauma codes usually dont turn out so good and if the victims are entrapped that doubles his being there as NFG. He ended up directing traffic but i’d like to know what he DID DO when he got on the scene because if all he did was direct traffic while being on probation, he should be bounced

      • 95%er

        dude, rules are not gray areas. they exist for a reason. if not, everyone can decide on their own when it is time to play hero. in reality, you don’t serve the people. you join an agency and the agency serves the people. when any one member of the agency decides that he or she is more important than the agencies mission….it’s time for them to leave the agency.

    • E1 LT

      Well said.

  • Anonymous

    Speak for yourself 95%er not the entire American Fire Service. For their are millions of us each with our own voice an opinions.

    • 95%er

      the american fire service elected me to speak with one voice for them.

      no, really seriously, for a second here.

      i want to hear your opinion on why this guy did the right thing. it’s helpful for me to visualize how your mind can see this situation in a light favorable to the whacker.

  • 7House

    Sounds like he has a habit of violating department rules, and was on probation for it. Back in my younger days as a vollie, I went directly to a scene and never made that mistake again! I’m guessing the department is better off without him.

  • http://communitylfesafety.com Andrew E.

    From looking at the video, this is not some kid who doesn’t know better, this is an adult, who apparently thinks — as 95%er says — that he can ignore any rule that he doesn’t like.

    I have heard tell (and maybe it’s just an urban legend, I don’t know for sure) that many departments went to the same policy as Columbia Twp because “everyone went to fire, and no one thought to go to the station and get the truck.”

    Much as I believe in second chances, I think 95%er is right… we don’t need his kind in the service. He’s already proven he can’t follow orders.

  • EastCoastLt

    Freelancing is dangerous and not acceptable. Case closed

  • Anonymous

    The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. Goodbye clown.

  • Anonymous

    I have two thoughts on this…

    The fact that he was off-duty and was *not* paged to respond raises the question of when a volunteer or on-call firefighter is truly off duty. Had any other person heard about the collision and showed up, they’d have just been sent away with no other consequences. Now, if this guy was just around the corner rather than four miles away, I would see this quite differently. San Ramon has an iPhone app that notifies nearby CPR-trained good samaritans about working code calls in public locations so that they can provide assistance until the first units arrive. Had this guy been around the corner and went to the scene to help during the initial moments, that’s a whole different (and more acceptable by all, I expect) ballgame.

    Second, let me play devil’s advocate for a second. This was an MCI, though not a large one. In large terror attacks, industrial accidents and disasters, nobody thinks twice about off-duty responders helping out due to the scale of the incident. So is the issue here that he showed up, or that it just wasn’t a big enough event for that to be acceptable?

    • RJ(in florida)

      Really…”REALLY? this guy by the story is certified in CPR ONLY! and as for playing devils advocate let me go out on a limb and say i believe that “Anonymous” is actually Freislinger commenting and to compare a fatal MVA to an MCI sounds like somebody that is REACHING!

      if i’m wrong, i’m wrong because to compare this to a large MCI/terror attack as a justification is BS because like others have posted when youn freelance, you jepordize EVERYONE

      but if i’m wrong, i’m wrong…i’m just commenting from my “trained” gut

  • OldSutterOne

    There are lots of reasons that FDs require their members to go to the station rather than the scene. Number 1, is their personnal safety. Going a little further, look at the motivation for volunteering, is it altruistic, a building block in a career or a narcisistic ego thing? If its the latter Columbia Twp.’s dept. and residents may wish they never heard of him.

  • mark

    In my POC department, we are allowed to stop at the scene if driving by. Directly by. Not out of the way.

    Secondly, in MI, it is a misdemeanor to respond to a scene that one hears on the scanner.

    Third, I am in agreement with 95%. This guy can’t follow basic rules and apparently has had issues in the past with following those rules in place. He would be a detriment to any department.

    Last, obviously he is known in certain areas as a “wanker”. Pretty sure you can figure it out from there.

  • Patrick

    Rule # 1, Never freelance
    Rule # 2, do not break rule # 1

  • Anonymous

    At my department, for medical calls and car wrecks not everyone needs to go to the station and jump on the rig. only whoever is closest, we carry our own first responder and medical bags in our pov’s. I feel in this incident he was right, maybe this department should re-look its policies because why for an MVA would everyone need to be on the truck, you aren’t going to need too many trucks trucks for an MVA or a medical. Just saying, we grab the medical truck and a pumper and usually call the neighboring city department for Mutual aid if serious extrication is needed.

    • mark

      Well, there is the whole thing about OSHA and PPE at MVA’s. For starters.

      Secondly, it can look really stupid to have 15 POV’s in a drivewayyard with 2 FF’s performing care and the other 13 standing in the yard jawjacking. Waste of resources. What happens when all of you are on scene of a medical with those POV’s and jump bags and one unit and a structure call comes in?

      I am in an area where some departments do this, regularly. The dept I am on used to do this. But, someone wised up, made the policy change that I referenced and everything works just great.

      • Anonymous

        Agreed, I am on a department that has a policy everyone goes to the scene, we have trucks that respond with only a driver. they going to look foolish when they have to lay a line in by themselves. Hope in the future this policy will change. Why have 5 personal cars there when you can have 2 engines with 8 people instead of 2 engines and 2 people.

  • Anonymous

    So basically this guy who seems to have a hard time forming full sentences and obviously has no sense of self discipline thinks it is ok to disregard rules repeatedly because he thinks that he needs to be there first on every call. Seems like a real asset…

  • CHAOS

    OK, I’m not a lwayer, and I didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but let me get this straight. He is considering legal action against the FD for firing him for violating established protocol. The FD has a protocol, he violated the protocol, the FD disciplined him for violating it. Hmm, what is it he’s considering suing about???

    This guy sounds like a really great catch.

  • OldCityCaptain

    All of you who are trying to justify this guys actions are wasting your breath….nobody is disputing the fact that he might have been able to provide some type of useful skill or ability when he went to the scene. He went, and wound up directing traffic, (not a life saving measure in that situation). The problem this guy has is that he does not follow the rules of that department!!!!! He was warned, and placed on probation for similar problems. They decided, AFTER the call was completed…that he was a liability,and would not follow rules. His affiliation with that deparmtnet was terminated because he did not follow the rules. Not because he went to try to help someone…not because he tried to perform life saving measures….(again he directed traffic). He was terminated because HE DID NOT FOLLOW THE RULES!

  • Agates1272

    Here’s my take on this: He was off duty. He heard a call on the scanner. He responded to assist in an “OFFICIAL” capacity. Therefore, he has put himself ON DUTY, and is subject to the rules and regs that his department has put in place. Period. There is no gray area here. He was on duty, and disobeyed SOP’s, AGAIN. He got exactly what he deserved.

    And for the record, they’re called “whackers”, not “wankers”. Just sayin’.

    • mark

      Maybe in your area…………

      What some of you are ignoring is that he committed a misdemeanor. A crime. He admitted it. It is against the law in Michigan to show up at a scene because you heard it on a scanner.

  • Capt Caveman

    Had it been a one time thing. Where he made the educated decision to go to the scene and help, I could seea slap on the wrist and let it go. But he has a pattern of not following hte rules and has been told not to go to the scene. Freelancing or going straight to the scene is dangerous not to just yourself but to others. If your location has policy about it there is a reason, some allow it (mostly vollies) some dont. If your job depends on following a rule and you have been told repeatedly to follow it. Well you get what you asked for.

  • 8truck

    Yes, your department may allow response to the scene but his did not. Do they carry PPE in their personal vehicles? I doubt it if they are not allowed to respond to the scene. He has violated the rules multiple times which means he has a problem with those in higher positions. From the news story I read was that the victims were DOA and apparatus were already on scene. At that point he only became a hinderance and clogged up the scene with is vehicle.

  • Taylor

    He can’t simply absolve himself of being a firefighter on a whim and suddenly becomes a good samaritan. Sounds like he got what was coming to him…

  • Smokeyque

    This guy has some issues working under the guidelines and procedures set in place to ensure an effective operation. Break a rule once and get a hand slap, twice= one slap and a nice letter with your name on it, three times= see ya….

  • RocketRadioRR

    If the communications system was any good, the dispatcher could direct the closest people to the scene, and the next closest people to the station.

  • ukfbbuff

    Nope!

    He should have followed procedure and gone to the station first if paged and then await further instructions.

  • Johnny Awesome

    The term “Freelance” is being used to much in today’s fire service. Most the time its being said by inexperienced firefighters and instructors.

    We all have a long list of what we may call freelancing. A firefighter goes back to the truck to get a tool, hes freelancing. He walks around a corner to pull more line, hes freelancing. Now we have driving direct to a scene and we want to call that free lancing.

    Are we afraid as firefighters and officers to say “Not Doing Your F-ing Job”?

    Because that’s what it is, you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing. Man up, call it what it is and move on with it. Already on probation, “Really”, you F-ed up, Big Time. So be a man and accept what is coming.

  • 95%er

    i am shocked that anyone would defend him. i guess everyone has a few supporters.

    • AbsoluteRealty

      Well, he’s not in the Union so he’ll not get much love…

      A Union guy would be getting a medal and be placed on the promotion list
      for “Duty above and beyond…”

      • BH

        Sad but true.

  • Madmeg

    some time ago I was on my way in to do a volly ambulance shift when I came across an MVA, so I stopped to assist. The ambulance arrived a few minutes after I did and so did one of our off duty vollies who claimed to have “heard the crash” from his house half a k away – yeah right, on the scanner more like. He proceeded to come onto the scene with no PPE and make a complete dick of himself to the disgust of the ambulance and fire crews. Because the off coming crew had responded as I hadn’t arrived on station yet (in fact they were worried it was me involved :-) we already had more than enough people to deal with the scene as did the responding fire crews and having someone extra who was acting like they were there in an official capacity when they were not just made life difficult for all concerned.
    This guy sounds like another glory hunter to me, plus it’s not like he hasn’t already had a warning, he could have responded to station before the pager went off and been ready to rock and roll when it did. Strikes me he just wanted to go along and have a look at the carnage and play being the good guy. What a dick!