DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A pilot program could help Dallas Fire Rescue save money, costly equipment, and most importantly, lives.
On April 1st, the department began sending two retired engines no longer equipped to fight fires as blockers — a first line of defense — to keep first responders from becoming victims as they’re responding to car crashes and fires along busy freeways.
Assistant Chief Bret Stidham said, “Our number one reason for putting this program together is to make sure our first responders and the citizens are safe. The freeway incidents are some of the most dangerous to respond to so the blockers provide that extra security.”
The two “blocker” vehicles are kept at different fire stations and have often been deployed to scenes along I-30 in East Dallad and on I-35E near Northwest Highway.
For years, fire departments have parked their vehicles along the freeway to shield first responders from oncoming traffic.
What’s new is using engines ready for the scrap heap as an extra layer of protection.
Assistant Chief Stidham said it will help them protect the frontline equipment. “Since 2016, we’ve had close to 70 apparatus hit on the freeways in the city.”
He didn’t know how much that cost the city in repairs and potentially replacements.
But Stidham was thankful no one has been injured in those wrecks.
Dallas modeled its pilot program after the one pioneered by the Irving Fire Department in November, 2017.
Irving Assistant Fire Chief J. Taylor said, “It’s a win-win for us as a city.”
Taylor said their Chief wanted to do something after an 18 wheeler slammed into one of their trucks along the freeway at 70 miles per hour in July, 2015.
Three firefighters were ejected and couldn’t work for six to nine months.
The Irving Fire Department says between 2010 and 2015, nine of its vehicles were hit, two of them were totaled.
The two were worth about $2 million dollars, and the other seven cost $1.5 million to repair and were out of service for more than two thousand days. So now, when a retired engine is hit, the cost is minimal.
Taylor said, “This one is a little bit faded and war torn but it’s a battle wagon. It’s fought a lot of fires and now it’s doing its job as a blocker.”
He said they have received calls from fire departments across the country.
Assistant Fire Chief Stidham in Dallas said their weeks-old program is already paying dividends. “It’s very important and our members, they feel safe with the blockers being out there.”
Assistant Chief Taylor said they first got the idea when they saw the Grand Rapids, Michigan Fire Department use an old retired dump truck from the Parks Department to protect their crews.
Taylor said fire departments can use whatever tools they have to save money and lives.