Where There's Smoke...

There’s Larry Bennett, firefighter and fire lawyer

Published in 2006 Ohio Super Lawyers magazine

By Rebecca Boever on December 20, 2005


They call it “setting the hook.” It’s when a newbie firefighter first feels the rush. For Larry Bennett, the hook was set at his first fire. He had just joined the Montgomery volunteer fire company and had no gear or training, but he did have a radio that reported a fire in his neighborhood. Bennett, now an employment and fire law attorney with Katzman, Logan, Halper & Bennett, arrived to a home with flames shooting out the windows and a teenage boy standing in the front lawn saying, “I can’t believe I did this.”

What unraveled was a torrid story of a fiery teenage romance on a snowy night. The boy had been dating a girl and while at the movies, she informed him that tonight was “the night.” One stipulation: “It has to be in front of a roaring fire on your parents’ living room rug,” she told him. But the snow-soaked logs wouldn’t burn, so the boy poured on some gasoline. “Not only did he burn his parents’ house down,” says Bennett, “but … I won’t finish that sentence.”
Even though the evening’s plans were spoiled, no one was hurt and Bennett was determined to fight fires. He was no stranger to public service, having been a Washington, D.C., police officer for five years before he was a federal prosecutor with the Department of Justice. Bennett was with the DOJ for nine years when a neighbor encouraged him to join the local fire department in 1979. With that, Bennett was off to serve the public in yet another way. “I’m not about publicity. I want no public notoriety in what I do,” he says. “I just feel I have some skills and I feel a calling to do it.”
And it doesn’t stop there. The lawyer, firefighter and ex-cop is also a teacher and author. He’s written a few textbooks, including Fire and EMS Law for Officers—Safety, and writes a monthly fire and EMS law newsletter on his firm’s Web site. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati Fire Science Department and at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, and he teaches fire and EMS law classes at Ohio Fire Academy. “I love teaching because you can actually change lives and help careers,” says Bennett. But how does he find the time to be lawyer, firefighter, teacher and author? “It’s important to me, so like anything else in life, you make time.”
Much of his teaching focuses on how to avoid being sued and/or avoid being the subject of an internal investigation. Bennett used a mock trial in November at his department in Deerfield Township to make a point. It involved a real case in which two paramedics responded to a 911 call from a wife reporting her husband as possibly having a stroke. They arrived, checked his vital signs and told him they couldn’t tell if he was having a stroke but they strongly recommended he come with them to the hospital. The man refused and signed a refusal form, only to later have a stroke and sue the paramedics, although the plaintiffs decided not to go through with the case. The lesson according to Bennett? “My message is document, document, document all your interactions.”
That’s when Bennett’s three professions as a firefighter, attorney and fire law teacher work together to show how to avoid problems by learning from the experiences of others. And which public service role does he mark as his favorite? “I enjoy all three. I feel blessed.”

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