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No seatbelt. No fire truck ride for Santa. Cops get St. Nick at the Pompano Beach, Florida holiday parade.

This is an interesting story. How many of you read Dr. Burt Clark’s October commentary at Firehouse.com about witnessing firefighters unbelted at a parade he was involved in? Here it is if you missed it. Well this story seems to have a connection.

In Pompano Beach, Florida, firefighters refused to give Santa Claus a ride in last night’s annual holiday parade because he wouldn’t wear a seatbelt. The motivation is being questioned by some because this has never been an issue in the past. Critics point out the union is at an impasse in contract negotiations with the city.

Instead, Santa was in the custody of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office who put him aboard its SWAT wagon, allowing him to stand up through the hatch at the roof of the vehicle. Parade officials had gone to Broward Sheriff Fire-Rescue to find wheels for Santa, but apparently they sided with the firefighters of Pompano Beach Fire Rescue on this one.

Here are excerpts from an article by the Sun-Sentinel’s Larry Barzewski:

The firefighters union, which is at impasse in its contract negotiations with the city, said standard operating procedures require all passengers to be seated and restrained by a seat belt when riding on a fire apparatus.

“It places all liability on the driver-engineer and the person that supervises the driver,” said Rich Sandell, president of the Pompano Beach Professional Firefighters union. He denied that the refusal had anything to do with the negotiations.

Pompano Fire Chief Harry Small, who has been on the force for 33 years, said “Santa’s pretty much always been on the fire department trucks” at the parade. Not until this year did Santa’s safety become such an issue that he couldn’t ride atop the truck.

Sandell had sought modifications to the rules to reduce liability, but Small said he didn’t see any reason for that.

“We had, in my opinion, a perfectly safe situation,” said Small, whose firefighters build the platform Santa usually uses when riding atop a fire truck. “We didn’t think that Santa Claus was at any time at any risk.”

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