Cities Pull Back on Firefighter Fundraising

At least seven U.S. cities and counties have stopped firefighters from collecting charitable donations at busy intersections citing safety concerns, reports USA Today.

For nearly 61 years, career and volunteer firefighters around the country have participated in “Fill-the-Boot” roadside charity campaigns, often around the Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends. They raise money, while on duty and in their firefighting gear, by asking passing motorists and pedestrians to contribute to various charities. More than 100,000 firefighters raise about $25 million a year for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, for example.

“There are no greater heroes than these firefighters,” says MDA spokeswoman Roxan Olivas.

But traffic and safety concerns, including the death of a firefighter in Michigan, have spurred cities to re-evaluate or halt such fundraising methods.

In March a South Carolina firefighter was hit while collecting money for the Carolina’s Children Charity.

In August, citing concerns about firefighter safety, the city of Marshfield, Wis. rejected their fire department’s permit request to fundraise on the streets.

Charleston (SC) began enforcing a ban on passing items to and from motor vehicles in late September. The city’s new ordinance is supposed to “promote the health, safety and welfare of the citizens” by protecting the “free and safe flow of motor vehicle traffic.”

Oklahoma City and other municipalities are in the process of deciding whether to ban firefighters’ roadside donation drives.

Tragedy struck in early September when a driver allegedly intentionally hit and killed Michigan firefighter Dennis Rodeman, 35, during his “Fill-the-Boot” shift. The driver, 22-year-old Grant Taylor, who was later found to have mental health issues, told police he was frustrated with the traffic associated with the fundraising campaign. He has since been charged with murder.

“That was just an incident that none of us could have predicted,” Olivas said. “It certainly wasn’t an accident and that was what was so hard about it.”

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