The motorist who ran over a fire hose at the scene of an Oct. 23 house fire in Geistown is on the hook to pay for any damage to the hose and faces a fine of up to $300, authorities said.
Fire broke out at 6 a.m. in the 200 block of Karen Way. A 4-inch, cotton sleeve, large-diameter hose was connected to a hydrant and laid across the road when a man driving an SUV ran over the hose.
“He said he had to get to the store,” said Bob Heffelfinger, deputy fire chief for Richland Township Fire Department.
A 50-foot section of hose costs $300, he said.
Geistown police Chief Nicholas Zakucia was on the scene to get the name and address of the motorist.
Local fire officials are raising the alarm about careless motorists at fire scenes after mounting news reports of firefighters across the state being injured when motorists drive over fire hoses.
In October, a Montgomery County firefighter was injured battling a blaze at a car dealership. A motorist drove around barricades, hitting a fire hose, which then struck a firefighter who suffered a leg injury.
In May, a Lebanon County firefighter was injured after a white van drove over the hose and the hose became caught on the vehicle, knocking over the firefighter who suffered minor injuries.
In January, a Palmyra Citizens firefighter sustained head trauma when a woman drove over a fire hose at an active fire scene. The woman’s vehicle dragged a hose coupling and knocked two firefighters to the ground. One firefighter was knocked unconscious, suffering serious head and back injuries.
The incident also caused $2,119 damage to the hose and the fire apparatus. Police charged the driver with reckless endangerment, failure to stop at an accident and unauthorized driving over a fire hose, according to www.firelawblog.com.
“It’s a nationwide concern,” Heffelfinger said.
While it doesn’t happen often, motorists driving over fire hoses happen often enough to raise concern, he said.
If the hose is damaged, lives are at risk, he added.
“Damage to the supply line would impede water from getting to the firefighters inside,” Heffelfinger said. “The hose could whiplash, the couplings would hit the firefighter or a civilian in the head.
“It could be a very, very dangerous issue,” he said.
It’s also illegal.
Unauthorized driving over a fire hose is a violation of the Pennsylvania vehicle code and is punishable by a fine of up to $300.
If a fire hose is damaged, it must be pulled from service, repressurized and retested to pass certification, said Don Blasko, fire chief of West Hills Regional Fire Department.
The fire departments have to pay for recertification, he said.
Everything from pumps and ladders to hoses and breathing apparatus must be tested, he said.
“Liability-wise, if something should happen, you need certification to show you weren’t negligent,” Blasko said.
Smaller fire departments are not immune to the problem of residents driving over fire hoses.
Summerhill Borough Volunteer fire Chief Bob Burkett said although smaller departments have fewer fires, they also have fewer people to stop traffic at a fire scene.
“We’re focused on the job at hand – taking care of the fire,” he said. “We may not have fire police or other people available to set up barricades.”
A few years ago, a motorist ran over the fire hose, Burkett said.
“It doesn’t happen often, but nonetheless it does happen,” he said.
Heffelfinger estimates that in the past 30 years his fire department has experienced about two dozen incidents where residents have driven over fire hoses.
It would occur more often if not for the work of firefighters and fire police stopping vehicles at the scene, he said.
Richland firefighters later determined there was no damage to the hose at the Karen Way fire.
“That man was very lucky there was no damage to the hose,” Heffelfinger said.
Still, motorists need to be aware.
“Our goal is not to crucify people but to educate them,” he said.