Approximate time: 0100hrs
Weather and road conditions: clear and dryQuint 23 was dispatched to a report of a vehicle fire on our Interstate westbound lane. The exits nearby include approximately 3/4 mile of frontage road from one exit to the next, the frontage divided from the Interstate by concrete Jersey barrriers.The automobile on fire was on the right-hand shoulder of the Interstate next to the Jersey barrier and there was fire showing on arrival. Quint 23 parked on the frontage road side of the Jersey barrier near the automobile and a 1+3/4 inch hoseline was stretched over the Jersey barrier to make the fire attack.Following departmental SOGs regarding apparatus placement and parking, the driver utilized 5 flourescent orange cones with white reflective striping to identify the location of the apparatus. The 5 cones were placed at the rear of the apparatus at approximately 10 foot spacing intervals. All emergency warning lights on the apparatus were operating, which included two red rotating beacons, two yellow strobe lights two dual element red flashing lights in addition to normal DOT lighting. In addition, a police cruiser was parked approximately 200 feet behind the quint with it’s light bar operating.The auto fire was extinguished and the nozzleman climbed back over the Jersey barrier and met the apparatus operator at the tailboard of the quint where they proceeded to change out the SCBA bottle on the firefighter’s airpack. The officer of the quint was on the I-435 side of the Jersey barrier examining the burned auto as part of the cause and origin investigation.As the firefighter and apparatus operator were changing out the SCBA cylinders, the apparatus operator suddenly heard a series of “thumps” and looked up to see a vehicle headed straight at him and the firefighter. Yelling “Look out!”, he pushed the firefighter towards the Jersey barrier and jumped over it. The firefighter, hampered by the weight and lack of mobility of full turnout gear, was unable to make it over the Jersey barrier and was struck a glancing blow by the driver’s side front fender of the auto. The auto then impacted the tailboard of the quint with force enough that extrication equipment was required to remove the driver from the vehicle.The driver of the auto suffered moderate injuries and was hospitalized. The driver of the auto was also found to be legally impaired by alcohol and was ticketed for DWI by the Police Department.The firefighter who was struck by the vehicle did not break any bones, but received a large deep muscle bruise on his left thigh and was out of work for approximately two weeks.Our lessons learned:
Don’t take anything for granted when operating on any roadway. In this instance, the impaired driver steered around a marked police car that had emergency lighting in operation and then drove over 5 standard flourescent/reflective traffic cones and straight into the back of a fire apparatus that also has emergency lights operating.
When operating in or near traffic, never let your guard down for an instant. Always be on the alert for anything unusual. In this case, had the apparatus operator not heard the “thump….thump…thump…” as the auto hit the traffic cones, both the firefighter and apparatus operator could easily have been killed…seriously injured at the least.
Don’t be afraid to shut down lanes of traffic. It makes the cops mad when you park your rig crossways in a traffic lane, but proper placement of the rig to protect the incident scene is vital to our safety.
Utilize the PD to maintain traffic control. An officer sitting in his car with the emergency lights operating did nothing to prevent this accident. An officer out directing and slowing traffic around the incident scene is another set of eyes as well as a set of lungs to shout a word of warning!
Never, ever get complacent. There is no such thing as a routine incident these days! Stay alert. Your life and your partner’s life may depend on it.