You have most likely been involved in an accident while driving your car. Probably more than once, and probably a couple have been your fault. Most people haven’t had the opportunity to drive a piece of fire apparatus, but if you have been around a while and are a driver of fire apparatus, you might have been involved in an accident or two. There are a lot of differences between calling your insurance agent to report an accident and telling the fire chief you crashed his million dollar fire truck.
I remember my first accident driving a car. I was sideswiped and the car was totaled. My first apparatus accident took the mirror off a delivery truck that was parked on the side of the road. Lucky for me there was no damage to the fire engine, we just had to replace a mirror for about $100. I was only driving for one other accident. I pulled across a railroad crossing and the gate came down on the side of the engine and broke off. That was not a big deal except for the paperwork required because there was a police officer parked on the other side of the crossing.
Our department did have a few larger sized accident, none resulted in any injuries. We did have some severe damage to an engine that was parked at an accident on the expressway. An intoxicated driver was a little distracted by all the flashing lights and hit the parked engine going about sixty miles an hour. Luckily the engineer of that rig saw the car coming and jumped out of the way. That engine was out of service for about 3 months.
A lot of the minor accidents happen getting those big trucks in and out of the fire station. One thing that seems consistent with newer fire apparatus is that they always get larger. If you work in an older station, the doorways were designed for smaller apparatus, so every time you get a new rig you have a tighter fit backing in. Fire chiefs seem to keep making rules about using spotters, but they never address the issue of the diminishing clearance in their bay doors.
One fairly costly accident happened when a fire engine pulled out with one of the side doors opened. The opened door was on the driver’s side back portion of the engine. The door opened upwards so when it hit the station pillar between the doors, it took out a big chunk of the pillar before it ripped the door off. That was new engine that had alarms to alert the driver before moving that a door was open. For some reason he ignored the alarm. Thousands of dollars in damage resulted in more rules about spotters. If you are unfortunate enough to be the driver in one of these accidents, you will find yourself on the way for a drug test immediately after the accident. The drug test is a good idea for everyone involved.
One of the funniest accidents happened to one of our older firefighters. While backing up, he caught the front bumper on a fire hydrant. The bumper bent right in the middle and pointed straight out the front of the fire truck. It sucks to be the driver when an accident happens, but it can and will happen to many of us. Everyone gets their turn. You are only in the hot seat until someone else hits something.
By John Morse
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