GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — There is a move-over law in North Carolina to protect people broken down or working on the side of the road, but often first responders are teetering on the line of danger when they respond to your emergency.
Monday morning, four firefighters had a close call on Interstate 85 and U.S. 421 when a tractor-trailer slammed into the back of Engine 61 as the crew worked the crash.
One firefighter saw the truck coming and screamed for everyone to get out of the way.
Greensboro Fire Department leaders tell FOX8 the situation is becoming too common.
“If you did a poll nationwide, every firefighter in this country is going to tell you the interstate highway system is the worst place for us to go,” said Ronald Young, assistant chief for health and safety. “In my career, I can think of several close near misses.”
Each time the Greensboro Fire Department is called to an accident on the highway, they’re inches away from danger.
“It’s something that weighs heavy on your mind. You’re always worried about your crew,” said Matthew Patterson, a fire captain.
Patterson and his crew were responding to an accident on I-840 in August.
“We just heard the squealing tires and you hear the car hit the Jersey wall and then the car ended up landing into our truck,” said Patterson. “It kind of looked like something out of a movie, the car banking up over the shoulder.”
A driver heading toward the crash lost control and landed between the truck and a concrete wall.
The truck has extensive scrapes, busted lights and doors that don’t open properly. Due to that damage, it remains out of service after four months.
Monday’s crash put a second truck, Engine 61 in the garage. The damage is so extensive, the truck might have to go back to the manufacturer. Young says it could take up to a year to get it back.
When trucks are out of service, the department turns to reserve engines. There are four reserve engines and three ladder trucks. Those trucks are used when other trucks have scheduled maintenance. Fire department leaders tell FOX8 they don’t want to find themselves in a situation where they’re borrowing reserve trucks if these crashes become more common.
The fixes also come with a hefty price tag. The damage on Engine 61 could cost up to $300,000.
“That cost is then put on the city, on the department, and it comes out of our operating budget,” said Young.
Their ask is for drivers to slow down, move over and think about their own lives and the lives of first responders.
“If you don’t pay attention, you could be the next accident, either there or down the road,” said Patterson.
Senate Bill 374 is currently sitting in the Rules Committee of the General Assembly to allow fire departments to put blue lights on their engines. Advocates believe it’s easier for drivers to see blue lights and they respond more quickly by slowing down and moving over.