Richmond Hill Fire and Emergency Services, like other fire departments, consists of a courageous group of individuals whom I respect tremendously. People look at these workers in emergency services as heroes — and rightfully so. But in so doing, we sometimes forget that firefighters are people too. People make mistakes, sometimes costly ones.
A few days ago, while on my way to get gas and then drive to school, the car I was in had a close encounter of the most unpleasant kind with a fire truck speeding northbound on Yonge Street in Richmond Hill, just north of Major Mackenzie Drive.
Its lights and sirens were on. The standard protocol in such situations took over, as I and the two cars in front of me pulled over to the right to let the fire truck pass. But as it got closer and those sirens got louder, the passenger in my car noticed that something was wrong. The fire hose was dangling far behind the truck… and was simulating a weapon of mass destruction.
A standard fire hose is 50 feet long and has a large brass attachment at the end of it, called a coupling. So a speeding fire truck whipping its hose violently across one of the busiest thoroughfares in York Region is a recipe for disaster.
And within a second of the fire truck passing my vehicle, the hose strafed the side of my mother’s Pontiac Grand Prix… and the brass coupling at the end turned the driver’s side taillight into a patch of colourful plastic shards spread across the pavement. (Had it connected one foot higher, it might have come through the rear windshield — and could have resulted in something much worse than property damage.)
They continued northbound on Yonge Street to answer the call, the hose still flying across two lanes of traffic.
While I was sitting in the police station after reporting the incident, the fire truck’s driver and another firefighter came in. They’d been alerted of the mishap. They had no idea that the hose had come undone until they arrived at their destination. The sirens were too loud and the dragging hose fell into their mirrors’ blind spot. They were embarrassed and apologetic.
The damage to the vehicle was almost $3,500, which was covered by insurance. Two other drivers also reported damage to their vehicles — but thankfully no one was hurt. For me, it was an extreme case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The police, the insurance company and the auto repair shop all said that they had never heard of anything like this before.
I take this experience as a lesson learned — that anything can happen on the roads. And the next time I pull over for a fire truck… I’ll probably duck my head too.