230869
Behind-the-Wheel

Driving around fire vehicles and scenes

Don't follow firetrucks

When there is a fire, we need firefighters to get there as quickly as possible. Literally, seconds count.

Once on scene, they need a safe working area so that they can concentrate on saving lives and putting out the fire without having traffic interfere. Our Motor Vehicle Act provides for both situations.

Firefighters and their apparatus responding to an emergency are granted right of way and exemptions from following traffic rules in the same manner as police vehicles and ambulances.

Fire apparatus have a special privilege granted to no other emergency vehicle in British Columbia. You must not follow them within 150 meters or 500 feet unless you are also driving an emergency vehicle. Having never been a firefighter, I was curious and thought that I would ask the experts and find out why this rule exists.

Fire apparatus is not always as nimble as the vehicles most people drive, so they may not be able to easily pull away from traffic. Following at the proper distance leaves room for sudden stops, turns and unexpected lane changes. Following too closely could cause a collision that would prevent the fire truck from reaching the emergency and have significant consequences in both locations.

As a follower, you don't know what sort of emergency the fire truck is responding to. It may be a situation you don't want to become involved in, such as an explosion or building collapse. Proper following distance will keep you from becoming trapped in the situation.

Finally, hydrants are usually located at street corners in the city. Keeping back allows firefighters to lay fire hose safely.

That same 150-metre following distance applies to driving or parking in the vicinity of a fire scene. Unless directed to do so by an official with that authority, you cannot go there. It is up to you to recognize this and find another way around that does not involve driving through the scene or over a fire hose.

Imagine you are a firefighter, hose in hand, approaching the flames inside a burning building. You open the nozzle on your attack line and...nothing. Someone has driven over the hose outside in the street and ruptured it causing a loss of pressure. Not only are you unable to fight the fire, you cannot protect yourself.

That is why it is an offence drive over an unprotected fire hose without the permission of the fire department official in command. Even if the hose is protected, it is likely to be within the 150-metre exclusion zone and you would not be able to be there without authorization.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



More Behind the Wheel articles

About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC



229542
The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories





221409