Driving Through Smoke?
Can anyone point me to rules, regulations or common sense when it comes to driving rigs through zero visibility smoke? I'm at an impass with my partner. My thoughts are that the vehicle should halt completely; he thinks should slow to snail pace. Who's right?
Depends on the situation. If it is simply smoke then yes of course you need to stop. However out west here you might get trapped into having to drive through a wall of smoke and fire to get to the other side where it has already burned and in that case you need to keep moving for obvious reasons. But I would definitely default to the "stopped" mode myself.
I agree with Birken for the most part. I would have a question as to if you are first on scene or coming in later. First in should be looking to hopefully come from a direction away from where the smoke is blowing. If not possible then I would hope someone is on scene who can give directions.Keep it safe.
Well if you can see the edge of the road out your window, or can somehow know where your at I would say its alright to drive through smoke. But after last summer I have to advise you not to backup in smoke unless it is really really light smoke, our chief had a little accident backing in smoke. Either way I would avoid driving through smoke at all. Many things can happen, getting trapped in the smoke, getting trapped then having fire come through, running off the road. All of which aren't the best situations.
I have to ask, because I'm sarcastic at heart... why are you driving through/past the smoke? Follow to source!
In reality, I'd stop. What use is it to proceed if it is truly zero visibility? Depending on situation, if it is zero vis then I stop until it clears or make your attack from there and give information to following apparatus to proceed from other direction. If it is limited visibility, proceed slowly until you are at the point where you need to stop.
One of the last things I'd want is to proceed through smoke and hit the witness to the arson. Or hit something harder and take the apparatus out of service.
We get some major brush fires, where the smoke could be a mile or more from the fire. So, we go by the wildland rules:
All warning lights on
Headlights on low beam
Slow to a walking pace (or slower)
Windows up, A/C on
Drive very slowly until in the clear.
I have been in smoke at night where I would drive until I saw the left side of the road, then bear right until my partner saw his side of the road. Back seaters watch straight ahead. Speed about 3 MPH.
I have also had to have FF get out with light sticks in the back of their helmet bands and walk ahead of me. This was off road, with big rocks that I could not see.
In both cases, the access to the fire was beyond the smoke line, so we could not just sit and wait.
While you may be following your own advice and proceeding at 3 mph, who is to say that the next due apparatus isn't behind you at 10? Or the civilian trying to escape coming at you at 30?
For that reason alone, I would be very hesitant about putting a person on the ground in front of the truck to walk it - maybe to the right of the truck walking beside an open passenger door so they can yell instructions through the door - but never in front of the truck. That'd be akin to posting someone on the side of the road during fog to yell "CAR" when they're coming right at him/her.
But yeah - although you may feel your eyes hate you after it, I would also light up the truck every way I could - but all in low beams so they reach farther. Also, leave the siren on if you have any chance of a person coming toward you - they will hear the siren through fog long before they see the lights.
Know what would be a good innovation? Would be an FCC violation I'm sure, but just a thought. A Stereo overrider that will reach a specified distance, say 1/4 mile or so. It would override any radio channel you are listening to, and announce a message. "Emergency Vehicle Approaching, Please Stop To The Right." Something like that. No other way really for people coming through smoke to know we're there until they find us.
My personal opinion, anchor flank and pinch if it's a wildfire. If the smoke is that thick there, it'll be dangerous to put a ground crew much closer, so start your fireline and defending there. Use the trucks stuck behind the smoke (an indication the fire just may come your way) to set up a perimeter, and call in for aerial assist from Forestry or DNR or whoever you are using. Air units can provide info on distance of fire, and help knock it down before it gets to you, or point the fire as needed. Other incoming units can be directed to come from the other direction and do the same if it is just stagnant smoke.
Just my opinion of course, me being a person who is NOT a wildland expert. Please, feel free to correct any wrongs in my idea.
I'm no expert (ex=something that is past, spurt=a large drop of fluid under pressure), just a reasonably knowledgeable individual, or RKI.
Note that the FF on foot were in an off road situation. In fact, it was the firebreak that had just been cut by the bulldozers, so there were no civilian vehicles. Part of the reason for them being outside the truck was the terrain. There were steep drops in the ""road"", and we were warned about large rocks that could remove our transmission.
And we were on the flank of a major wildfire, the largest our state has ever had. At night the smoke settles and thickens up. No Aircraft at night (too dangerous), and hundreds of FF, trucks, tenders, etc. on the line. We had all emergency lights on all the time.
In a maritime environment,both oceangoing and river,smoke is considered reason enough to use radar if you haven't been using it already that day.
Since no fire truck company that I know of installs radar on the trucks,I'd advise slowing down to a crawl,turn on lights and get every eye available to looking out for other vehicles,pedestrians,etc.
"Driving through smoke" reminded me of this classic nugget.... not trying to hijack the topic but it does pay to know what you're doing before proceeding. ;)
From this thread:
Stupidity in action
More on my question...
I ask actually becuase we were discussing this posting... http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=46&id=42644. It appears that from my friends in NM that this guy was heading out on a single-lane dirt farm road to check on a field fire. The fire truck was heading in the opposite direction. The story is that the smoke overtook the road, this guy pulled over and stopped (or almost stopped), the rig driver decided to push through hard instead of slow down and killed the man going between 30 to 40 mph. Doesn't sound like the smartest thing to do...
From a legal standpoint, if this is on a public highway, you have a duty to drive without your vision being obstructed. Just as if a hood of a car came up and blocked your vision, if you encounter heavy smoke, you cannot safely see where you are going. If you ran into someone because you did not stop after you hood came up, you would likely be cited into court for driving with obstructed vision. The same would hold true if you drove through heavy smoke. That is not to say that you cannot drive through it, but if you chose to do so and had an accident, you would likely be held liable for the unsafe act.
Driving Through Smoke
In addition to the visibility safety issue another thing to remember is that if the smoke is thick and with embers perhaps you might ingest them into the air intake and stall the engine...Oops.. There have been rigs in California that have been in a wildland fire situation and smoke embers were ingested into the air cleaner and it stalled the engine and they couldn't restart it and had to abandon the rig and it then was consumed by the fire due to the wind direction. If you operate in these sorts of conditions make sure your rigs have a Ember Separator in the air cleaned which isn't on all rigs but is now a NFPA 1901 Standard requirement in the latest edition.