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Some Firefighters Resist Recommended Seat Belt Requirement

Some Massachusetts firefighters are resisting a call for a mandatory seat belt law for firefighters in the state.

The call comes after a federal report on the fatal crash of a ladder truck in Mission Hill last year concluded that none of the firefighters were wearing seat belts.

Lt. Kevin Kelley, a 30-year veteran of the Boston Fire Department, was killed in that accident, which occurred when the truck he was inside lost control on a steep hill and crashed into an apartment building.

The report recommends making seat belts mandatory for all firefighters in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Fire Chiefs Association President Thomas Coulombe said seat belts pose a difficult question for firefighters. Normally, he said, they don't buckle up because they want to exit vehicles quickly in an emergency.

"But when you balance that off against their safety in they're in a motor vehicle accident, we should be having seat belts on," Coulombe said.

Still, Coulombe does not think seat belt use should be required by law. For one thing, he said, many of the belts in the older trucks take too long to get out of.

Coulombe says firefighters need to be able to use their own judgment.

"I think it's sad that we have to mandate basic safety in the fire service, but unfortunately, sometimes the fire service has been 150 years of tradition unencumbered by progress," Coulombe said.

The report admits that a seat belt probably would not have saved Kelley's life, had he been wearing one.

This program aired on April 21, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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