York Twp. fire official pleads guilty to improperly using lights

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

York Township's assistant fire chief has admitted to improperly using the emergency lights on his duty vehicle to pull over a driver.

Scotty Bowman, 32, who lives in the township, appeared before District Judge Scott Laird on Tuesday, Oct. 10, and pleaded guilty to the summary citation, according to court records.

He must pay a total of $854.46, which includes a $750 fine and court costs, records state. The summary offense carries a maximum fine of $1,000, according to PennDOT spokeswoman Fritzi Schreffler.

Friday, Aug. 18, 2017--Truck 19 at Goodwill Fire Station No. 1 in York Township. Bill Kalina photo

York Area Regional Police said there have been several other instances of York Township fire officials following drivers after roadway encounters involving fire apparatus, and Bowman was in a vehicle during one of those instances.

York Area Regional Police Chief Tim Damon has said fire officials don't have the legal authority to pull over a driver for a traffic violation.

Bowman maintains he did so for a good reason.

"While yes I used my lights when an immediate emergency wasn't present, I did so in order to protect my men and women," he wrote in a message to The York Dispatch.

Bowman also said he believes police, firefighters and ambulance crew members should work together as a team.

"This entire situation has been blown so far out of proportion," he wrote.

What happened: York Area Regional Police filed the citation Aug. 14 for an incident that happened July 17 in front of the York Township fire station, 2318 S. Queen St.

Damon said a fire truck was returning to the station and had pulled onto the concrete pad in front of the building. The truck's driver was starting to pull back onto the road to position the apparatus to back it into the station garage, he said.

"They had their emergency lights on, and they also had their right turn signal on," he said.

A passenger car drove around the fire truck, according to the chief.

Damon said in Pennsylvania, it's illegal to pass emergency vehicles in front of their garages while the emergency vehicles are leaving on a call or returning from one. The emergency vehicle must have its emergency lights on for this traffic law to apply, he said.

However, he said that in this case it wasn't clear what the fire truck was doing and that once it was out of the lane of travel, the passenger vehicle kept going as the truck started to pull back onto South Queen Street.

More:York Twp. assistant fire chief cited by police

Followed car: Bowman was a few vehicles behind, driving the duty chief's SUV. He saw what happened and followed the passenger car as it drove away, according to Damon.

Bowman turned on his emergency lights, pulled over the vehicle and informed the driver it's illegal to pass a fire truck that's entering or leaving its garage, Damon said.

In August, Wendy Tracey, president of York Township's Goodwill No. 1 fire station, acknowledged Bowman turned on the SUV's emergency lights. She said he only intended to get the license plate number of the black Dodge Ram that had just passed the fire truck — not pull it over.

Friday, Aug. 18, 2017--Goodwill Fire Station No. 1 in York Township. Bill Kalina photo

"He put his lights on to get around the fire apparatus," she said. "As soon as he went around the truck, the lights went off."

By that time, the woman who was driving the Dodge had already pulled over, according to Tracey.

"We're talking about maybe 100 feet," she said.

Car was 'flying': Bowman got out of his SUV and spoke with the woman, who apologized, Tracey said; he did not get her license plate number.

Tracey said the Dodge was "flying" down the road and forced the driver of the ladder truck to slam on the brakes.

"She almost hit the truck and actually forced a car in the opposing lane to go up over a curb," Tracey said, adding there is video of what happened.

Tracey defended Bowman's actions, saying other drivers create unsafe conditions in front of the fire station when fire apparatus are leaving or returning.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.