Charlotte's congested roads focus of fire truck training - | WBTV Charlotte

Charlotte's congested roads focus of fire truck training

(Coleen Harry | WBTV) (Coleen Harry | WBTV)

Increased traffic and congestion are the first clues that a city is growing, and those growing pains can be a pain for firefighters trying to get to a scene.

"The driver/operator, when they get the call, the first thing they started thinking - the challenges. Which way they’re going. Is this route closed off today?" said Captain Jerry Knight. "And then they’re ultimately responsible for getting us to the fire scene or the emergency medical scene safely."

As part of training, Charlotte firefighters are in the middle of annual driver operation training including driving forward, backing up, and navigating three-point turns in narrow lanes marked by cones.

"It gives us a chance to let guys and girls get out and drive through obstacles, get a feel for the truck, get an idea of the spaces they can go through without hitting anything," Capt. Knight said. "Because different parts of town have different challenges. The outlining stations they may have bigger areas to drive as far congestion and cars parked on the side of the road as compared to, say, the downtown stations, more developed areas of Plaza Midwood, the Ballantyne areas."

Department leaders say the goal is for firefighters to get to a scene within six minutes of getting the call. Charlotte Fire officials say they meet that goal 80% of the time. 

Firefighters say motorists are not paying attention to them.

"It’s very dangerous. People just don’t yield to fire trucks anymore," said Anji Blackmon, who's been driving fire trucks for 17 years. "They don’t know to move to the right, lot of times people have their radios on, they're messing with their phones and doing other things besides focusing on driving and they don’t hear a fire truck until it’s right on their bumper and then they panic and slam on brakes."

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