Three KFD engines hit while working calls

Tom KingOpinion

The summer of 2023 has not reached its halfway point and the Knoxville Fire Department (KFD) has experienced three accidents already with distracted drivers crashing into fire engines on emergency calls. All at night. All on Interstate 40 or I-640. Thankfully, no one has been injured.

“The potential for serious injury or death to a first responder or driver of the (civilian) vehicles involved is very real,” says KFD’s Asst. Chief Mark Wilbanks, the KFD health, safety and communications officer. “Tennessee state law requires motorists to move over into an adjacent lane of traffic when safe to do so or to reduce their speed when approaching emergency vehicles, including recovery vehicles (tow trucks), highway maintenance vehicles, solid waste vehicles or utility service vehicles.”

Additionally, these accident scenes have a host of first responders working an accident – Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers, Knoxville Police Department, Knox County Sheriff’s Office, AMR Ambulances, Rural Metro Fire, TDOT help trucks, and the tow trucks that clear the roadways.

They are in harm’s way as well.

“This upsurge in KFD accidents is concerning, given the high cost of equipment damage and the possibility that a firefighter or police officer could be seriously injured,” he added.

Wilbanks said one of the drivers was in a line of backed-up traffic, became impatient and passed an 18-wheeler. The driver somehow did not notice the emergency lights flashing at the accident scene.

It happens to other agencies, too. Last month, on June 25, a TDOT help truck was hit while sitting in the inside lane of I-275 south at Woodland Drive. It was one of two help trucks blocking lanes due to an accident with no injuries near the Woodland Avenue exit. The driver came around the curve speeding and slammed into the rear end of the help truck, knocking the truck about 15 feet, says help truck supervisor Karen Roberts. It was her truck that was hit.

“We here at KFD are asking people to use extreme caution when passing through emergency work zones. Please slow down, pull as far away from the work zone as possible, and pay close attention to your surroundings. Our lives depend on it,” Wilbanks added.

Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia.


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