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City won't pay bills for men who helped at fire

November 11, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

The City of Hagerstown won't pay $700 in medical bills for two Hagerstown men who were injured helping out during an apartment fire in March, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said Thursday.

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"We're not prepared to use public funds for an injury of this nature," he said.

Kevin Pose and Dave Riggleman, both of Hagerstown, were standing near the YMCA on North Potomac Street around 4 p.m. on March 20 when they heard that an apartment building across the street was on fire.

The men rushed to 136 N. Potomac St., and found it was filling with smoke. A family inside was attempting to put out the fire, which was started by a child playing with matches, according to fire officials.

Pose and Riggleman convinced the family to leave and hauled out a burning mattress.

Hagerstown Fire Department Capt. Brian Pile praised the men at the time and said "because of their actions there was only minor damage."

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Pose and Riggleman asked the city to pay for their treatment at Washington County Hospital for smoke inhalation and minor burns.

"It was a tough dilemma and the issue wasn't the dollar amount," said Zimmerman.

After consulting with city insurance officials, he said the city would not pay the medical bills because the men were not employees and it might set a precedent for future claims.

Hagerstown City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the men should receive the money for their bravery.

"The $700 could be found somewhere," he said Thursday evening.

But Councilman J. Wallace McClure said he feared setting a precedent and was against providing the money.

Zimmerman commended the men for their bravery but said "we have to be careful how we use public funds."

"I'm upset. What should we have done, just let the people burn and the whole block go up in smoke?" said Riggleman after learning of the city's decision.

"How many people would risk their own lives to save a mother and her kids? How many people would grab a burning mattress with their bare hands and drag it out of the building?" Riggleman asked.

Pose was unavailable to comment on the city's decision Thursday evening.

Riggleman's insurance company had paid some of his bills, leaving him with a $114 balance for which he has been billed.

He said he has refused to pay the money and is being sued by the Washington County Hospital. A court date is set for Nov. 22.

Riggleman said he would appear in court as scheduled and explain the situation to the judge.

"I'll plead my case to the judge and let him make a decision," he said.

Pose has not been sued by the hospital for his outstanding $600 in medical bills, he has said.

Zimmerman said the city would help the men with their own insurance companies to see if they will cover the expenses.

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