The head of the firefighters union is sounding the alarm after a Winnipeg firefighter escaped injury from being struck by a vehicle at the scene of an accident Friday night.
“It was very fortunate that our firefighter wasn’t hurt or even killed,” said Alex Forrest, president of the United Firefighters of Winnipeg Local 867.
At around 10:30 p.m., Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) crews were attending to a two-vehicle motor vehicle collision near the intersection of Inkster Boulevard and Parr Street. Fortunately, no one involved in the collision was injured.
But while WFPS crews were there, another vehicle drove through the scene, clipped a firefighter and then crashed into a home. Police were immediately dispatched, and took the driver into custody.
Paramedics assessed their fellow WFPS member. According to officials, injuries were not severe and the firefighter did not need to be taken to hospital.
“It just seems to me that we need to do more to protect our first responders on our roads,” Forrest added.
Over the last several months, firefighters have seen a spike in these near-misses, Forrest said. Often as a precaution, crews will place their fire trucks and emergency vehicles in such a way to protect themselves from drivers failing to slow down and exercise proper caution, he added.
Forrest said the union is hoping to work with Winnipeg Police Service and WFPS management over what can be done to educate motorists and for possible enhanced enforcement options.
Earlier this week, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, through its Safety, Health and Survival Section and in cooperation with the Emergency Responder Safety Institute, issued an emergency safety and survival alert to all Fire Chiefs and Officers. The organization stated that already in 2019, at least 10 first responders have been struck and killed by passing motorists on North American roadways. As well, non-fatal collisions are also happening more frequently, despite emergency vehicles having brighter lights and louder sirens.
In 2011, the Slow Down, Move Over law was created under section 109.1 of Manitoba’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA) requiring drivers to slow down and move over when they see a vehicle pulled over at the side of the road with their emergency lights flashing. Drivers who do not comply with this law can be ticketed with a heavy fine of $300 and two demerit points up to a maximum limit of $2,000 and/or a one year driver’s license suspension issued by a judge.
In 2014, the HTA section was amended doubling fines for speeding in a construction zone and for those passing emergency or designated vehicles.
The incident will be investigated by the Winnipeg Police Service.