Prescott Fire Department would like to urge the area’s drivers to be extra vigilant when approaching the department’s apparatus as they are parked on incident scenes. Nationally, seven first responders have been killed in the first fourteen days of 2020 while serving the public on roadside events. In 2019, 44 first responder fatalities were reported, with dozens more that suffered career-ending injuries including amputations and head traumas. There have been a myriad of causes which have included weather, speed, and distracted driving.
Locally we have not lost any first responders to a traffic event, but there have been several near misses in the past year. Twice, vehicles bypassed barricades, entering the emergency scene as a helicopter was attempting to land. Numerous vehicles have entered into scenes, nearly striking first responders, and in one instance a woman almost rear-ended the parked ambulance. Most recently, during the snow storm over Thanksgiving weekend, a car driving on Hwy 89A struck a fire engine which was parked roadside for a multi-vehicle accident and subsequently careened into a police cruiser. The damage to the half-million dollar fire engine was determined to be too significant to repair and the engine was taken out of service. Three firefighters and a police officer were evaluated at the hospital after receiving minor injuries.
It is the department’s hope that local drivers will make a diligent effort to improve their driving in order to stave off a fatal event. The firefighters and other first responders practice their due diligence in protecting themselves by wearing safety vests, deploying traffic cones, and parking the apparatus in a blocking, defensive manner on the roadway. We need drivers to approach emergency scenes cautiously, respect barricades, and obey the state’s “Move Over” laws. Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 28-775 requires motorists to yield the right-of-way to emergency vehicles, move to the right and stop when approached by a moving emergency vehicle, and not follow closer than 500 feet behind a responding vehicle. Amended in 2005, ARS 28-775E-1-2 requires motorists to merge traffic in such a fashion as to provide an empty lane adjacent to the emergency vehicles when there is adequate room to do so. The extra space is intended to provide an extra margin of safety for first responders. We are hopeful that we can work together to make this a safe year for the first responders working roadside.
Further information regarding the fatalities occurring in 2019 and 2020 can be found at: https://www.respondersafety.com/struck-by-incidents/yearly-fatality-reports.aspx