A new ordinance in North Versailles highlights an ongoing dispute between two township fire departments.
On Thursday night, the North Versailles commissioners passed the ordinance banning the making of audio and video recordings by township firefighters when they are fighting fires.
Helmet cams will no longer be allowed. The ordinance also states that firefighters who continue to use helmet cams will lose their right to serve the township as firefighters.
Commissioners George Thompson, Frank Bivins, Russell Saula, Vincent Paradine and Sam Juliano voted for the ordinance, and commissioners George Beswick and Daryl Mitchell voted against it.
During discussion before the vote, Mr. Saula said firefighters filming something of a private nature could expose the township to liability.
Township solicitor Greg Evashavik said the township wouldn’t be responsible for that because it would be the fire departments, not the township, who would be videotaping.
During the meeting, Merle Pusey, a lieutenant and treasurer for West Wilmerding Fire Department, said if a hole is drilled in a fire helmet for a helmet cam, or even if a sticker is on one, it invalidates the helmet’s
warranty if a firefighter is hurt, and the company will not pay for injuries. During the meeting, Paul Saula, a retired firefighter, former township commissioner and brother of Commissioner Russell Saula, said the
helmet cams have already been used in a way they shouldn’t have. A member of the Fire Department of North Versailles, using a helmet cam, video and audiotaped West Wilmerding Fire Chief Dan Duncan at
a recent fire saying he had had a drink, and wasn’t in command of the fire scene, Paul Saula said.
Paul Saula said the FDNV firefighters were trying to get Mr. Duncan in trouble, but didn’t realize the fire was just across the street from his house.
Russell Saula said the firefighters could videotape a coin collection, or confidential paper on the dining room table in a home.
“I don’t want somebody coming in my house and filming… my wife might be in her negligee,” Russell Saula said after the meeting. “Who knows where these tapes are going afterward?” After the meeting,
Commissioner George Beswick said he believes the cameras can provide safety.
“Down the road, if someone would get hurt, at least we would know what occurred and why,” he said. Commissioners’ President George Thompson said after the meeting that he doesn’t like anyone sneaking around videotaping people. “It’s creepy,” he said.