Texas Bill Would Grant Liability Protection for Emergency Volunteers

January 22, 2013

A Texas state representative has filed a bill that would allow fire departments to accept volunteer assistance during an emergency and would protect shield those volunteers from liability.

State Representative Cecil Bell, Jr. (Magnolia) filed, House Bill 487, would increase the flexibility of fire departments and emergency personnel to utilize volunteers, heavy equipment, and other resources during hazardous or dangerous situations, such as wildfires. In exchange for their services, volunteers are explicitly granted liability protection under Chapter 79 of the Civil Practices and Remedies Code.

In 2011 alone, 1,038 Texas fire departments reported 1,731,912 fire and non-fire incidents to the Texas Fire Incident Reporting System.

Fire departments responded to 102,799 fires — one fire every five minutes.

As a result of these fires, 169 civilians lost their lives, 825 civilians were injured, and $1,035,707,502 in property loss was realized.

Montgomery and Waller Counties were not immune to this trend, experiencing the largest interface fire in East Texas’ history. The Tri-County Fire, or Riley Road Fire, burned 19,960 acres and destroyed 73 homes. At the time, private landowners and companies with resources across the state came forward to volunteer their services and equipment to fight the fire, but emergency personnel questioned whether offers to assist could be accepted.

Source: Texas House of Representatives

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