The Irving Fire Department has rolled out what it believes to be a first-of-its kind program that is designed to save firefighters’ lives and save money.
Four former Irving fire trucks have been transitioned in recent months into blocker trucks; trucks with the sole purpose of being parked on the scene of a highway crash to block the firefighters and other emergency workers from oncoming traffic.
“Being on the highway, working an accident scene, it is probably the most dangerous thing we do,” said Assistant Fire Chief Jack Taylor. “[In a fire situation] we understand fire science. We have a really good idea of what is going to happen with those fires if we understand the buildings in our district. But on the highway you can't predict the human element.”
The department found that out first hand three years ago when firefighters from Station 2 were working an accident scene along Texas 183 when an 18-wheeler slammed into a fire truck with a force so hard that that the big rig burst into flames, killing the driver. The impact of the crash threw three firefighters several yards from the fire truck, seriously injuring them, and it flipped the fire truck onto its side and ripped the transmission right out of it.
In the aftermath of that incident, the department determined that perhaps a better way to block an accident scene was to deploy a standalone fire truck that was not currently in service to the scene; that would prevent a scenario where any firefighters were actively using the truck.
So now, instead of auctioning off what would otherwise be a decommissioned fire truck, the Irving Fire Department has outfitted them with light-up arrows on the sides and back in an attempt to help direct traffic. There are currently four Blocker trucks in service, and the plan is to add a fifth truck in 2019.
“Ultimately we don't want anything to get hit, but if something is to get hit we want it to be a blocker while we don't have anyone on it,” Assistant Chief Taylor said.