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Menlo Park fire district chief returns to work after paralyzing fall

Original post made on Jan 6, 2014

About nine months after a catastrophic fall, Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman is back on the job.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, January 6, 2014, 3:58 PM

Comments (33)

Posted by menlonation, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 6, 2014 at 5:08 pm

$60,000 for a modified vehicle is crazy> and he gets to use it off duty as well I assume. the injury happen off duty, so the taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for a "modified" vehicle.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 6, 2014 at 5:14 pm

$60 K is expensive. Maybe he should consider retiring and save taxpayer dollars. After all, he has worked 30+ years; he could retire gracefully.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 6, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Perhaps before you guys go off half cocked you should review the American with Disabilities Act.

Posted by interested, a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Maybe it's time for all of us to step back and have some compassion. The world shouldn't be all about money. I'm certain returning to work is good for the community and for Harold. He has a lot to offer, I'm sure.

Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2014 at 8:16 pm

This is GREAT News, welcome back Harold and Best of Health to you.

Posted by menlo nation, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 7, 2014 at 8:37 am

Menlo Voter, I understand the ADA. Does that mean the taxpayers have to buy all :special needs" employees a modified vehicle? I can understand if the chief was injured at work but it was off duty.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2014 at 10:58 am

The Chief needs the vehicle because he will still be managing incident response on-site at the incident location -- i.e., he needs to drive to do his job.

This is simple, not controversial.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 7, 2014 at 11:26 am

Menlo nation:

as neighbor points out, the chief is supplied with a vehicle by the department as he must respond to incidents. Per the ADA, reasonable accommodations must be made so that he can use that vehicle.

Posted by Bob O'Brien, a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2014 at 12:03 pm

He doesn't need to physically fight fires anymore, but he is a terrific manager and can run the Department. As someone else mentioned, his injuries qualify as ADA. If the District hired someone else with disabilities, they'd have to accommodate that person as well. Its not easy to find someone that has as much experience as the Harold to manage such a progressive fire district.

Posted by Elsie Floriani, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 7, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Harold Schapelhuoman is our local hero, leading a team of firefighters to help on 9/11 and hundreds of other heroic acts. We are inordinately proud of his accomplishments. There is no doubt in my mind that he will continue to make us proud of this amazing and selfless crew in downtown Menlo Park. Every team needs a leader, and there is none better than this amazing man. For all he has done for our community, we should feel grateful that we can thank him in some manner--the "modified vehicle" is not even enough of a thank you. We should be proud and happy to foot the bill.
Elsie Floriani

Posted by Thankful longtime resident--, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Welcome Back Chief!

Thank you for your past service and future service for our city.

All the best to you!~

Posted by Admirer, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jan 7, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Welcome back Chief! He has given incredible service to this community - service that is not defined by whether he can pull a firefighter out of a burning building. He will continue to give incredible service to this community as an experienced leader.

Posted by SteveC, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 7, 2014 at 4:09 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Yes, welcome back chief. Your service to the community is appreciated.

Posted by Ginger, a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jan 7, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Welcome Back to the Station! So glad that you are able to resume your leadership!
You are a hero to all of us!

Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiņa, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiņa is a registered user.

Welcome back Chief. The District certainly missed you.

We are all looking forward to you re-assuming your leadership role in shaping the District.

Roy Thiele-Sardina

Posted by Long Time Menlo Man, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 7, 2014 at 5:24 pm

I hope Mr. Schapelhouman realizes that the majority of comments here are from a vocal minority. I, for one, am glad to see the fire district has a sense of humanity and compassion that allowed Mr. S...... to return. I hope I never have to walk the bridge he's walking now but I'm glad be to living among people who appreciate all of those around us.

Posted by Liz Hutnick, a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Great news! I was thinking about the Chief today and hoping he was doing well. Welcome back!

Posted by Chuck Garcia L55, a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2014 at 6:57 pm

The Brothers and Sisters of Local 55, Oakland and Alameda County Firefighters are so happy and proud to see you return to the profession you love so much. Your fight and hard work is inspiring.

Posted by mike, a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Glad he is getting better. But the truth the district was doing really well without him. [Portion removed.]

But i do think its crazy to spend 80k on a vehicle he gets to use 24/7 and only work 4hrs a day. He was hurt off duty. Oh well the firefighters have not had a raise in 6years so the district has plenty of $$$$

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 7, 2014 at 8:31 pm

mike [Portion removed - don't label other posters.] If you want a contract talk to your leadership. They're the ones that wouldn't come to the table for six years. By the way, your Chief didn't have anything to do with that. [Portion removed.]

Make sure and let us know what happens if you get injured. Let's see how you're treated and what you have to say then.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 7, 2014 at 8:36 pm


one more thing. You're bitching about how many hours a day the chief's working?! You, who works ten whole days a month?! Give me a break and give me a call from your second job. I don't think the chief has a second job. Of course, neither does the most of the rest of the public that works 40 plus hours a week. They don't have the free time you do. Spare us the "oh poor me."

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2014 at 8:51 pm

REALLY? This man has risked life and limb, more than once, and people are arguing about a mere 60k? But what's more relevant now, even than what he's done in the past, is what he's still capable of doing as a chief, as a leader, as an expert.

Given what MPFPD has done, not just here, but all over the *world*, I'm honored to have some of my tax dollars pay for this. I don't easily use the word "hero", and I believe it's thrown around too often. But it fits this man, and many others in his district.

Living in EPA, w/a modest income for this area, it's especially disturbing, but not shocking, to read comments from the cheapskates in wealthier parts of the MPFPD. So I'm wondering:
-Where *exactly* do the funds come from to pay for this vehicle?
-What's the total cost?
-How many people do we need to divide it by, so we know what each of us is contributing?

If our tax dollars pay for it - GOOD! It's so much better than paying for all the lousy, destructive things that we don't have a choice in.

Welcome back, sir. Oh, and while you were gone, our neighbors did CPR on another neighbor in cardiac distress. Your men arrived, worked nonstop, tirelessly, expertly, on him until he was transported to the hospital. The neighbor didn't make it, I'm very sorry to say. However, it was a reminder of who's there for you in the middle of the night, doing whatever they can, with expertise and compassion.

Happy New Year.

Posted by Emma Moran, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jan 7, 2014 at 9:51 pm

So glad the chief is back and doing well.

Posted by mike, a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2014 at 10:35 pm

menlo voter. lol. guess i hit a soft spot. I'm a happy retired guy, thank you. actually worked 3 jobs to make ends meet trying to live in RWC. lets see 10 days a month at 24hrs, 240 hours a month plus working 2nd and 3rd jobs. ya that 40hrs a week must be tough. go give H a big hug lol

Did not come to the table for 6 years. you are clueless.

Posted by MenloMash, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 8, 2014 at 8:12 am

Here we go again! Now I know where youth obtain their indifference to other peoples strife. Here we are going back and forth about providing something to a (fine) public servant, allowing him to continue to the extent possible in an endeavor he obviously feels strongly about. Yet how many millions will we spend (as tax payers) to house outright crimminals who receive food, dental and healthcare needs, etc., all on our dime. Some of those who have taken other innocent lives.

As far as I'm concerned, give this gentleman all he needs to continue his service to our community.

Posted by Menlo, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 8, 2014 at 11:56 am

So good to hear this news. Thank you Menlo Park Fire Department for arriving at my home less than a year ago, with my house fire and my injuries.

To the naysayers, I might be incorrect, but this gentleman could have been eligible for State Disability if he requested.


There are only so many days we have on this earth, why oh why can people not think before they respond to an online article. Kindness and gratitude goes a long way.


Posted by Kaz, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 8, 2014 at 4:57 pm

I hope those who aren't aware of what our Fire Chief has done will go back in the almanac and read about some of his accomplishments and about the incredible work that he's done to recover his abilities to the extent that he has. His experience and expertise are incredibly valuable to our community. We are lucky to have him back and I am so happy for him personally that he can return to work.

Posted by Worried, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 8, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Am I the only one who is worried that because Mr. Schapelhouman is paralyzed, he will not ever be able to respond quickly in person to incidents, and this will cause problems? Who is going to be in charge while the firefighters are waiting for him to arrive and take command? Can the job of Fire Chief really be done properly by a paralyzed person?

(BTW -- I am a MP taxpayer, and I am not at all concerned about the cost of the special vehicle he will have. That is not what I am worried about.)

I just need some answers, as no one has said anything about this.
TIA to anyone who answers these very important questions!

I do believe that he has been a very good Fire Chief for all these years.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:01 pm

To worried: you ask legitimate questions; ones I'm sure the Fire Board has thought about. As your elected officials I encourage you to address these questions to them, here is their website link: Web Link

As a retired public safety person, I would want my chief (police or fire) to be unrestricted and mobile at the scene of a (major) incident much like a general commanding troops. That said, I have tremendous respect for the fire chief and his past accomplishments. I have minimal concern about his role as an administrator, rather my concerns are his ability to move around at an incident. If you have ever been on the scene of a big fire, you know there are lots of vehicles, hose lines, and other equipment all over the place -- not easy access for a disabled person. I'm not aware of any current (or past) chiefs who were confined to a wheel chair.

Posted by Worried -- but no longer, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 9, 2014 at 10:49 am

This is "Worried", and I just now talked to the MP Fire District.

My worries are allayed. The Fire District Board has decided that the Fire Chief does not have to respond to incidents. That was not deemed to be an essential part of the job. So Mr. Schapelhouman can, indeed, perform the essential parts of the job, even though he is paralyzed, and be an administrator, which -- from all that I have seen (as a long-time local resident) -- he has done admirably for a long time.

Posted by connected, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 9, 2014 at 1:27 pm

In the event of a major earth quake, the chief's van should have an advanced communications array, so that he can radio and tweet from him home in San Jose.

The board should have a congincy plan in the event of a terrorist attack where where EMP (electro magnetic pulse) is used, the chief's van and his electric wheel chair will not be of any use.

Posted by Anne, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jan 10, 2014 at 1:53 pm

He must have a wonderful wife. We all know wives don't get enough credit for their sacrifices and long hours of support.

Chiefs don't usually go to incidents. The division/battalion chiefs go to incidents to oversee operations.

Posted by Hmm, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jan 13, 2014 at 11:34 am

[Post removed; please stick to the topic and state your comment clearly.]

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