City Government

Like A Rudderless Ship, Fire Truck Crashes

It seems impossible to hear of a fire truck leaving the station without a driver, but that’s what happened Thursday when Boise’s Truck-5 responded to an alarm at Adams School, but forgot the “tillerman”–the guy who steers the back half of the 100 foot aerial ladder.
When the truck–with only half the driving team–rounded the corner on Grove at 16th, the back end of the articulated truck swung wide and whacked into a pick up truck. No one was injured in the crash, but we can all hope there will be some major pain in the backsides of some heroic first responders.

Those trucks are so long they require the tillerman in the back to actually turn in the opposite direction when rounding a corner–that keeps the rig from driving over curbs. The truck can be driven (carefully on wide streets)
with the tiller locked in the straight ahead position. In this case it was obviously NOT locked.

Standard procedure is to get a “ready” signal from the tillerman before moving the truck. It is also standard procedure for the Capt. to know his crew is aboard the rig. We speculate the internal investigation will take some time, but in the end it will probably show:
–TILLERMAN missed the bus. Big question is WHY?
–DRIVER left the station without a signal from the tiller (who was AWOL).
–CAPTAIN as commander of the crew didn’t know the whereabouts of a key crewman OR knowingly left him behind. Bad move on either count.

This ranks up there with the ENGINE 8 crew that took out the door of the station in 2008 when an equipment door was left open on the side of the rig.

UPDATE 1/30/09–We got inside information that a “perfect storm” was responsible for the driverless ladder truck. Seems the tillerman got on, but noticed a cabinet door open on the truck and got off to close it so as not to wreck the firehouse like Engine 8 did last year. The front driver had seen the tiller get on, but not get off. Then when they did the role call, the #3 crewman said, “I am here,” and the driver mistook the voice for that of the tillerman who was left chasing his ride out the door…we would love to see the video of that event.

He frantically ran to the station’s radio to call his ride, but Truck 5–at the direction of dispatch–had changed radio frequencies. THAT is a “perfect storm.” Intercom procedures, use of the mirrors, and response by name or crew member designation, and the “ready signal” will be enforced in the future.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Flyonthewall
    Oct 30, 2009, 10:27 am

    Having had an accident in a county car in another state, all I can see is volumes of paperwork most people will not belive.

    If there is any value in this accident it will be deconstructed and gone over inch by inch and second by second until impact. More that likely it will point out a series of transgressions that got overlooked and finally the accident. A white paper will probably be published in the journals and perhaps systems put in place so it won’t happen again.

  2. Any word of where the fire was? Seems to me that driving a slower speed while changing all the lights in your favor would be a much safer way to travel to a false alarm

  3. Boy! Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall when Doan explains this to Bieter/

  4. OOOOPS (can’t say anymore I’m laughing my ass off here)

  5. Harry Palmer
    Oct 31, 2009, 12:28 am

    So, a cop gets a ticket for illegal parking while getting a cup of coffee and a donut, but I’d bet anyone Chief Doan didn’t respond and request a ticket be issued to the fireman……

  6. The call itself was a false alarm.

  7. Just went to shopping, came across a tillerman running down the street chasing his truck offered him a ride . Answer to this problem…Faster Running Tillermen or Lighter Turnout Gear?

  8. How does that happen. That would be like an airline pilot forgetting his Co-pilot. Do they not talk to each other. The damage they could have done is HUGE, they got very lucky and thank god that no one was injured.

    There should be some sort of violation or disciplinary action taken but what are the chances that will happen. My guess is zero.

    I can hear it now (as far as the fly on the wall goes), “I know Dave but we would still like an ambulance and everything that comes with it if it’s not to much to ask for”. Long pause, which ends with a Bromance hug and an “of course you can still have your ambulance Dennis, your my BOY”.

  9. So where is the ombudsman for the firefighters? The public goes crazy if a cop makes a mistake but firefighters make a mistake that could have killed someone and its okay. I dont understand the double standard the public has with public servents. Instant mistrust of the police and such acceptance of firemen. Fire fighters need an ombudsman!

    EDITOR NOTE–You will see a citizen “public safety board” of some sort being proposed within the year. Done right, it will be endorsed by both chiefs, but it won’t deal with “personnel matters.”

  10. What is defined as “Personnel Matters”?

    Is someone’s lack of completion of their training a “Personnel Matter”?

    Is someone’s poor (or good) Medical performance on scene a “Personnel Matter”?

    Is someone throwing a fit, intimidating/harassing another agencies crew or otherwise causing problems on a scene or in station a “Personnel Matter”?

    I think it would be important to look at the police ombudsman. Does the Police Ombudsman get involved in “Personnel Matters”, and what is his definition of that? I would be willing to bet its going to be different than what the local fire union wants.

    Sounds like the union is trying once again to shield its own behaviors and its member’s behaviors from public scrutiny under the blanket of “Personnel Matters”, but thats just my suspicion and paranoia.

    I’m just over-reacting…right? Its not like such things are really important, right?


  11. I just want to add:

    It would be my position that once it involves a response, a line of duty injury, a member of the public, another agency, or taxpayer $$, it is not a “personnel matter”.

  12. So are the firefighters who caused the accident going to have to pay for the damages they caused through their negligence? Or are the taxpayers picking up the tab?

  13. Fly on the wall, what volumes of paperwork are you speaking of besides the accident report? Is there something else you had to do the public doesn’t?

  14. Do you suppose the review panel, whatever its form, might consider installing some sort of “pre-authorization” switch the tillerman would be required to activate making it impossible for the vehicle to be driven unless he/she is in place? If you put it in the tillerman’s seat like one of those irritating seatbelt reminders in passenger vehicles, it would be a no-brainer.

    EDITOR NOTE–Honestly M.R. if we had a panel in place they would probably advise the chief, “If there were not proper safeguards in place. Put them in place. If they were in place and ignored, take appropriate action.”

  15. The firefighters might feel picked on and the cops do too when they make a goof or worse. But why do they get jumped on? Because they spend so much time and effort holding themselves out as bigger better stronger faster… but they’re just people like the rest of us. Very expensive people. Does the Editor have a budget graph available? Perhaps with a population growth adjustment to show the expansion of budget $$ vs. population growth?

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