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'Safety' Leads to Parade Controversy After Santa Told Can't Ride Atop Ladder Truck

Santa Claus won't ride with the Hampton Fire Department in Saturday's Hampton Christmas Parade.

When the annual Hampton Christmas Parade steps off at 1 p.m. Saturday, a familiar face won't be seen riding atop a Hampton Fire Department ladder truck due to national safety regulations.

Deputy Fire Chief Jamie Ayotte said he expressed concerns earlier this week to Chief Chris Silver that Hampton's past practice of allowing Santa and Mrs. Claus to ride outside the truck during the parade violates National Fire Protection Agency Guideline 1500, and in turn the department's safety and liability regulations.

The decision was made Thursday not to allow the Clauses to ride on the back of the vehicle, and several individuals have since voiced their frustration with Hampton-North Hampton Patch and posted their frustration with the decision on Facebook.

"I'm a little peeved," said retired Fire Capt. Rusty Bridle, an ambassador for Santa and the person in charge of the parade lineup for Experience Hampton Inc., which runs the parade. "I just think it’s been a tradition for a long time that Santa rode [on the back of the ladder truck] in the parade. We were able to work it out last year, and it’s a shame we aren’t able to do it now."

[Be sure to follow Hampton-North Hampton Patch on Facebook, Twitter and through our e-mail alert service for updates on this and other stories.]

Bridle said Santa and Mrs. Claus rode with the Rye Fire Department two years ago because of similar safety concerns, and he said he's most bothered by the "last minute" change because he felt the issue was resolved last year. Bridle said Santa will still ride at the end of the parade in this year's festivities — just not in a HFD vehicle.

"I want to send out a big thank you to the Town of Rye for stepping up to bail out Santa in his ride in the “HAMPTON” Christmas Parade," wrote Bridle in a message to Hampton-North Hampton Patch. "Santa will be riding in Rye’s Antique Fire Truck."

Ayotte said the "last thing" he wanted to do was "create controversy or any bad will" because "this season is [his] favorite time of the year." Ayotte said the controversy has become "a little bit bigger than it should be," and said Santa and Mrs. Claus "are more than welcome to ride within the vehicle," just not outside.

"I certainly did not mean to hit the wasp’s nest with a stick here," said Ayotte. "I just wanted to make sure everybody was safe."

Ayotte said the policies dictated by the National Fire Protection Agency prohibits individuals from riding outside of the apparatus because there are no seatbelts on the back of the truck.

Firefighters — including Santa actors riding in parades — have died after falling off a ladder trucks, according to Ayotte. He said "obviously that's the extreme," but regardless is something he doesn't want the department to be a part of.

"Regardless of how careful someone can be, that was never designed for a firefighter to ride on it," said Ayotte, who said the decision was "discussed at length" this week. "It's a known potential risk. We have to prevent the preventable... I want to make it as safe as possibly can."

Santa and Mrs. Claus rode on the back of the Hampton ladder truck in last year's parade, as shown in the picture above, and Jill Essigmann was one of several residents to voice support online for their ability to do so again on Saturday.

"It wouldn't be the same without YOU!" she said.

A member of the Rye Fire Department confirmed with Hampton-North Hampton Patch the decision to allow Santa to ride on their apparatus, although declined additional comment Thursday.

Interim Chief William Sullivan wasn't available for comment.

Bandofotters November 29, 2012 at 09:58 PM
When is a fire truck not a fire truck? We actually have safety regulations for vehicles when not in service? Did the regulations have Santa in mind?
Stephen LaBranche November 29, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Now that we are aware of the liability (and safety) issue, it is obvious that 'Santa' CAN NOT ride on the ladder truck. Period. Reality trumps "that's the way we always did it". Only a few years ago, a little boy was run over and killed in the Portsmouth Christmas Parade. SAFETY FIRST folks! Thank you to Deputy Fire Chief Ayotte for pointing this out...
joshua November 30, 2012 at 05:24 AM
I just don't see what the big deal is, why does everyone feel that they have to change something to make them self's known. its been happing this way in hampton for a long time and every year santa has been fine. put him on the truck
Lori November 30, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Just don't put kids on a flat bed with no railing, that was an oversite I'm sure an we all learned a tragic lesson. Looks like Santa & Mrs had railings to holding them safe, so whats the problem?
Bandofotters November 30, 2012 at 02:15 PM
For the record, Santa riding on an antique fire engine has more class than the hook 'n' ladder. I like it. But there is risk simply rolling out of bed. If the town really wanted to impose safety in the town they would change the building code to forbid stairs in new construction. No running in playgrounds. No contact sports! Looking forward to seeing Ms. Claus on Saturday.
Kelly November 30, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Make Santa sign a waiver!
Kyle Stucker (Editor) November 30, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Thanks for your comments, everyone.
Christine Singleton November 30, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Thank you to Rye for helping Santa and Mrs Claus!
Mister Y December 02, 2012 at 01:29 AM
I have been a firefighter for 20+ years...went to Hampton FD's webpage, which has a photo gallery for incidents. In less than 5 minutes I found no less than 10 violations of NFPA standards, including the most obvious one of all- the wearing of N5A leather helmets, which every first-year firefighter knows are not NFPA approved. Safety Susie Jamie Ayotte and the Fire Chef need to take off their panties....If they are that concerned, make Santa wear a ladder belt for god's sake.....Where has my beloved fire service gone- I really weep for the future.
Local History December 04, 2012 at 01:59 PM
We are a nation of pussies...the insurance companies have made us so. Sign waivers for crying out loud and get the insurance companies out of our lives!
Lori December 04, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Oh Boy that looks much safer, check out the 1st picture of Mr & Mrs Clause 2011 and then look at the 3rd 2012. I just hope they had their seat belts on. Thanks to Rye FD Santa rides again.
CKM December 04, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Stupid is as stupid does. Case in point. Thought the state motto for New Hampshire was "Live Free Or Die". People, wake up! If Mr. & Mrs. Santa want to ride on the truck, just let them!

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