BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Beckley Firefighter First Class Aaron Halstead remembers the first time he sat behind the wheel of a fire engine.
“It was a little nerve-wracking. It was the first time I’d ever drove anything that big,” recalled Halstead. “So I was a little nervous, but these guys, they encourage you a lot, so it was easy to do it around them.”
Both Halstead and Firefighter First Class Josh England are with Beckley Fire Department.
In the wake of a deadly firetruck and civilian vehicle collision in Kanawha County, which claimed the life of a 46-year-old Charleston man on Thursday, England said on Sunday, September 24, 2023, that before firefighters drive firetrucks to an emergency call, they first undergo training and then get continued practice each year.
“If you see we’re out on the roads alot, putting smoke alarms in, going to training within the city, we’re out and about, alot, so we’re constantly driving these trucks,” said England. “We get daily driving, and we document all of our driving.”
England said collisions with other motorists are a major danger for firefighters.
“People are very unpredictable, especially when they’re at an intersection and they hear lights and sirens, it’s hard to tell what they’ll do,” he explained. “Some people may pull out into the intersection. Some people will just freeze and stop in place. So we have to slow down, prepare and try to watch what other drivers are going to do.”
When a fire truck approaches with sirens, Beckley firefighters advised, the engine could be travelling five and, more rarely, up to 10 miles above the speed limit. They advised those on the road to pull their vehicles to the right.
“I’d say the best thing to do is pull off to the side, slow down, come to a stop,” said Halstead. “Let us pass, and then, proceed.”
Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department officials are investigating the fire struck collision, which involved a South Charleston Fire Department truck.