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Last May, I received a real-life experience from Lieutenant Donald Fox of the Delhi Fire Department in Holt, MI. The letter that Don wrote has to be one of the most powerful accounts of a personal vehicle response accident that I have ever received. I believe that we could all learn a lesson on the safe response of our personal vehicles from Don's experience. Here is Don's letter:
My name is Donald Fox and I am a lieutenant with Delhi Township Fire Department. I am writing to you in regard to the February 1996 issue of Firehouse® and your article entitled "Apparatus Accident." On March 28, 1994, I too was in a tragic accident involving another motorist while I was responding to an emergency call in my personal vehicle with operating emergency lights and sirens. The motorist was killed.
The Delhi Township Fire Department is in Holt, MI, a suburb of Lansing, the state capital. The department is a paid, on-call department employing approximately 50 members. We have two stations located about five to six miles from each other on opposite sides of the township. I am assigned at our Number Two Station and live about two miles from that station.
The day of the accident I was at home when we were toned out in the early afternoon for a mutual aid response to assist another department with a structure fire. Since the run was during the time of day when most everybody is at work I responded to my station just to make sure that Station One had enough people for the run. I arrived at the station as another firefighter also arrived. By this time, Engine 214 from Station One had already gone enroute as well as 201, our Chief.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported 14,670 accidents involving fire department emergency vehicles in 1995, representing one-tenth of 1 percent of total responses. About 950 firefighters were injured in the accidents. Also in 1995, the NFPA logged 1,690 accidents involving firefighters responding in personal vehicles, with 190 firefighter injuries.
I contacted Station One to see of they needed any more assistance and I was advised that they were "all set." We did, however, listen to the radio for about twenty to thirty minutes to determine if any additional resources would be needed. It sounded like everything was OK and I called back to Station One to let them know we were leaving. I arrived back home and about five minutes later we were toned out for our Air Truck to help fill SCBA bottles at the fire. The Air Truck was located at Station Two, so I proceeded to get in my vehicle to respond. I turned on my lights and siren as I was leaving my residence and proceeded northbound on my street, then turned westbound onto another two lane road. From the two-lane stretch, I had to proceed through three intersections with signal lights. At the third, I had to turn south onto a four-lane highway. I was approaching the next intersection, which is the last thing that I remember.
I woke up wondering what had happened. I knew I was in an accident but I didn't know how bad. I remember asking the paramedics if anybody else was injured but they would not tell me. As I was getting treated for my injuries a bad feeling came to me because I was asking about the other person or people in the other vehicle and nobody would tell me. As a paramedic, I knew this was not a good sign. My wife arrived at the hospital and after many times of asking she finally told me that the other driver, a 20-year-old female, was killed. This would be a day I would never forget. I was admitted overnight for observation and was released the next day, which was my son's first birthday.