Vehicle Endangers Firefighter as it Crashes into Grand Rapids (MI) Fire Apparatus

A Grand Rapids firefighter had a close call with a motorist while working a traffic accident.

Police are trying to figure out how a driver missed all the flashing lights at an accident scene on the East Beltline Avenue near Burton Street SE just before 1 a.m. Friday.

A Grand Rapids firefighter jumped out of the way and as the vehicle crashed into a fire truck.

The back bumper was crushed. Roll up doors on the compartments holding rescue equipment will not open as the body of the truck was bent from the impact.

“The reality is that in a few seconds somebody not paying attention can cover a lot of distance, and it’s too late,” said Grand Rapids Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Sehlmeyer.

GRFD, GRPD and an ambulance crew were working the original Friday morning crash.

The fire department was using an engine as a blocker, part of a standard safety procedure in which at least one and usually two fire departments vehicle are used to block traffic several yards in front of a crash.

“The placing of this piece of equipment by our crews actually creates a shadow to work,” said Sehlmeyer. “That ultimately prevented some death, potentially, to first responders and also the people in the original accident.”

Figures from the National Fire Protection Association show that out of the 97 firefighters killed in the line of the duty in 2013, six died after being struck by a vehicle at an accident scene – many more were injured.

Firefighter training has been modified over the years. There is a reason the firefighter narrowly escaped injury in Friday’s crash was able to jump out the way. He didn’t turn his back to the traffic lanes.

It’s part of the procedure when at a crash scene. Firefighters are even required to turn their bodies toward traffic as they are climbing out of the truck.

The driver that hit the fire engine was sent to the hospital with on-life threatening injuries.

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