Lights and sirens approved for firefighters’ personal vehicles

Meadow Lake deputy fire chief Joe Grela shows off his new emergency lights, installed in his personal vehicle. The lights, as well as siren allow Grela the same rights as an emergency vehicle when they are activated. Grela is the first member of the Meadow Lake fire department to have the set up.

By Mac Christie

The City of Meadow Lake passed a bylaw that will see firefighters be allowed to install lights and sirens in their vehicle, the first in the province to do so.

City council passed the bylaw at their Nov. 14 meeting, passing the Emergency response bylaw. Council was told the bylaw would increase firefighter and public safety, by making it easier for firefighters, especially senior officers, to get to the fire hall.

Fire chief Neil Marsh said the bylaw will allow firefighters to use their vehicles as an emergency vehicle.

The vehicles would have to be equipped with both lights and sirens, and then would be allowed to have the same rights as a fire truck. Those rights include driving a vehicle through a red light or stop sign, as well as exceeding the maximum speed permitted.

“It would probably slightly increase our response times, because if a firefighter doesn’t have to wait for a light to change,” Marsh said, “and they’re able to get the right-of-way from the other drivers because of the lights and the sirens, there’ll be less delays getting to the hall.”

Currently, only deputy chief Joe Grela has the lights installed on his vehicle, and Marsh said he’s unsure how many of the firefighters will get the set up.

“We’re not going to go out and buy lights and sirens for every member, because it’s quite expensive,” Marsh explained.

In order to qualify for the lights, the drivers have to have passed a Civilian Emergency Vehicle Operators course, such as the one held recently in Meadow Lake.

Marsh noted for those members that do have the lights installed, the vehicles will have to be properly maintained, and the department will probably re-certify the drivers every year.

The law allowing volunteer firefighters to use personal cars as emergency vehicles came into effect in April 2009, said Grela.

He added the bylaw should help people get to the fire hall quicker.

“Lots of times, on Railway (Avenue) traffic’s backed up and…no one really yields to fire department members responding to the fire hall,” he explained. “This should help us get there safer and quicker.”

Grela added it’s positive to see that Meadow Lake is one of the first in the province.

“I know some other fire departments are interested,” he noted. “We had some inquiries
when we were running the driving course.”

But Grela said the biggest thing the bylaw will provide is greater safety – both for members and the public.

“If the public’s aware that you’re responding to a call, then they’ll be more likely to give you the courtesy and pull to the right,” he said. “The biggest thing is the reduced chance of a collision.”

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