H. B. 2397
(By Delegates Collins, Williams and Kuhn)
[Passed March 11,1995; in effect ninety days from passage.]
AN ACT to amend and reenact section seventeen, article five,
chapter twenty-one; and sections one and four, article
three-a, chapter twenty-nine of the code of West Virginia, one
thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, all relating
generally to firefighters in emergency situations; expanding
the definition of emergency so that voluntary fire department
personnel are not fired or otherwise discriminated against for
situations not presently included in such definition;
expanding situations in which firefighters may enter
privately-owned buildings; expanding situations in which
persons are guilty of a felony or misdemeanor for interfering
with firefighters during an emergency.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That section seventeen, article five, chapter twenty-one; and
sections one and four, article three-a, chapter twenty-nine of the
code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as
amended, be amended and reenacted, all to read as follows:
CHAPTER 21. LABOR.
ARTICLE 5. WAGE PAYMENT AND COLLECTION.
§21-5-17. Employers prohibited from discharging employees for
time lost as volunteer firemen.
No employer may terminate an employee who is a member of a
volunteer fire department
and who, in the line of emergency duty as
a volunteer fireman, responds to an emergency call prior to the
time he is due to report for work and which emergency results in a
loss of time from his employment.
Any time lost from employment as provided in this section may
be charged against the employee's regular pay.
At the request of an employer, any employee losing time as
provided herein shall supply his employer with a statement from the
chief of the volunteer fire department stating that the employee
responded to an emergency call and the time thereof.
As used in this section, "emergency" shall mean going to,
attending to or coming from (1) a fire call, (2) a hazardous or
toxic materials spill and cleanup, or (3) any other situation to
which his or her fire department has been or later could be
dispatched. The term "employer" includes any individual,
partnership, association, corporation, business trust or any person
or group of persons acting directly or indirectly in the interest
of an employer in relation to any employee.
Any employer who willfully and knowingly violates the
provisions of this section shall be required to reinstate such employee to his former position and shall be required to pay such
employee all lost wages and benefits for the period between
termination and reinstatement. Any action to enforce the
provisions of this section shall be commenced within a period of
one year after the date of violation and such action shall be
commenced in the circuit court of the county wherein the place of
employment is located.
CHAPTER 29. MISCELLANEOUS BOARDS AND OFFICERS.
ARTICLE 3A. AUTHORITY OF LOCAL FIRE DEPARTMENTS.
§29-3A-1. Authority of fire officers in charge of fire, service
call or other emergency; definition.
While any fire department recognized or approved by the West
Virginia state fire commission is responding to, operating at or
returning from a fire, fire hazard, service call or other
emergency, the fire chief, any other elected or appointed fire line
officer, or any member serving in the capacity of appointed fire
line officer in charge, except on industrial property where trained
industrial fire fighting personnel are present, shall have the
(1) Of controlling and directing fire fighting and fire
control activities at such scene;
(2) To order any person or persons to leave any building or
place in the vicinity of such scene for the purpose of protecting
such persons from injury;
(3) To blockade any public highway, street or private
right-of-way temporarily while at such scene;
(4) To enter the building, structure, enclosure or other
property of any person or persons at any time of the day or night,
without liability, while operating at such scene;
(5) To enter any building, including private dwellings, or
upon any premises where an emergency exists, or where there is
reasonable cause to believe an emergency exists, for the purpose of
eliminating the emergency;
(6) To enter any building, including private dwellings, or
premises near the scene of the emergency for the purpose of
protecting the building or premises or for the purpose of
eliminating the emergency which is in progress in another building
(7) To inspect for preplanning, all buildings, structures or
other places in their fire district, excepting, however, the
interior of a private dwelling, with the consent of the owner or
occupant, where any combustible materials, including waste paper,
rags, shavings, waste, leather, rubber, crates, boxes, barrels,
rubbish or other combustible material that is or may become
dangerous as a fire menace to such building or buildings, structure
or other places has been allowed to accumulate or where such chief
or his designated representative has reason to believe that such
material of a combustible nature has accumulated or is liable to be
(8) To direct the removal or destroying of any fence, house,
motor vehicle or other thing which may reasonably be determined to
be necessary to be pulled down, destroyed, or removed to prevent the further spread of the fire or hazardous condition;
(9) To request and be supplied with additional materials such
as sand, treatments, chemicals, etc., and special equipment when
dealing with an accident on a public highway or railroad right-of-
way when it is deemed a necessity to prevent the further spread of
the fire or hazardous condition, the cost of which to be borne by
the owner of the instrumentality which caused the fire or hazardous
(10) To order disengagement or discouplement of any convoy,
caravan or train of vehicles, craft or railway cars if deemed a
necessity in the interest of safety of persons or property; and
(11) As used in this article, the term "emergency" means a
situation in which the fire officer in charge knows or in which a
reasonable person would believe that there exists an imminent
threat of serious bodily harm or death to a person or significant
damage to property,
§29-3A-4. Person attacking or hindering or obstructing
firefighter or emergency equipment; penalties.
(a) It shall be unlawful, while any fire department or
company or firefighter is lawfully exercising or discharging such
department's, company's or firefighter's official duty during an
emergency, for any person to:
(1) Attack any firefighter or any of his or her equipment with
any deadly weapon as defined in section two, article seven, chapter
sixty-one of this code, or
(2) Intentionally hinder, obstruct, oppose, or attempt to hinder, obstruct or oppose, or counsel, advise or invite others to
hinder, obstruct or oppose, any fire department, fire company or
(b) Any person violating the provisions of this section is
guilty of a felony, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be
imprisoned in the penitentiary not less than one nor more than ten
years, or, in the discretion of the court, be confined in the
county jail not more than one year or fined not more than five
hundred dollars, or both fined and imprisoned.
(c) Any person willfully violating any of the provisions of
section one or three of this article is guilty of a misdemeanor,
and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than one
hundred dollars nor more than five hundred dollars.
(d) Nothing in this article shall be construed to prevent
law-enforcement officials from controlling traffic and otherwise
maintaining order at the scene of a fire.