Firefighters delayed by careless drivers, illegal parking

Lives put at risk, officials tell 69 News

READING, Pa. - Firefighters and paramedics are often up against the clock, and Reading officials said they're also up against careless drivers.

"If we're delayed, by even a half a minute to a minute, that is time that could cost somebody their life," said Deputy Chief Thomas Rehr, Reading Fire Department.

City firefighters said those delays seem to be more of a threat lately because of illegal parking and careless or reckless drivers.

"It is frustrating," said Mike Lurch, a city paramedic. "I know when I'm driving, trying to get to the hospital in a hurry because I know the patient in the back is critically ill."

Officials said drivers are forgetting the basic rules of the road, such as moving to the right and stopping when an emergency vehicle with lights and sirens on needs to get by.

"We're seeing people that race us, people that try to beat us to the intersection," Rehr said.

Firefighters also reported that distracted drivers have crashed into the backs of their trucks, and there are other problems that could delay response times: double-parking, parking in front of hydrants, and parking along those yellow lines.

"If it's on a side street, we can't get down," said Ken Kise, an RFD firefighter. "We have to stretch hose longer. It takes a lot longer to do that than if we can pull right in front."

During a ride-along Tuesday morning, a truck parked on the yellow line forced firefighters to reverse and try to make it through safely. It took about three minutes to make the adjustment.

"It could be one of your relatives or friends that we're going to," Rehr said, "and if you're blocking the street and making it harder for us to get to, you can't blame us for that."

Officials said that sheer call volume — city fire and EMS crews respond to about 90,000 calls a year — compounds the problem.

"That's a lot of responses to make in a city this size," Rehr said. "Each call is important to somebody."

Officials said they understand that parking in the city is a challenge, but they urge drivers to just be courteous and brush up on the rules of the road.

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