Red Light district
Ah yes, we’ve all seen them…. Perky young volunteer firefighters whizzing down the road at incredible speed. Trying their absolute best to shave off as many seconds as possible to get to that .0025 acre spot fire, a.k.a. Natural Catastrophe!!!! We’ve seen old women yank that Lincoln Continental off the road. Old men in their 1892 model Ford Pickup truck shake their fists at that young whipper snapper barely an ass hair’s width off their bumper. Frightened citizens all, coming to a screeching dead stop, right in front of that 27 and a half foot set of Goodyear All Terrain Eagle Pro Grip come Hell or High Water rubber streaks in the middle of a four lane highway (that will stay there as a reminder for three months). You know exactly what im talkin’ bout’ Willis! I’m talking about those wonderful Vollies and their awe-inspiring $2,100.95 set of pretty red twinklies!
One follower of ELAFF has brought up the subject, and I whole heartedly approved of throwing my hat into the ring, and giving my own personal ideas and thoughts behind the issue! Now, Be advised, this is not gonna be a bash on the little volunteers and get on my little high horse and wag my finger session. Quite the contrary, I intend to look at this from a neutral perspective. Are they, or are they not a useful presence in the fire service? If you ask a volunteer, of course they are! You aint no real fire man without em! If you ask a professional, its absolutely re-dunkulous and a totally silly excuse to drive like a demon off its ridilin. Without trying to make a 12 page essay on the topic, I’ll shorten it down to a few points.
One question you must ask yourself before you invest yourself into the red light stereotype, is about its practicality. What is the intended use? Well it has from what I can see, two useful purposes. 1: To attempt to save some time by letting people know in front of you to make an attempt to move safely over and allow the first responder the right of way. Anyone who has ever driven emergency traffic knows this is N E V E R the case. See the light, pull to the right is, at least right now, a fantasy. A wishful dream of emergency responders and police. Reality is more along the lines of: See the light, panic, jerk the wheel in both directions at once while simultaneously slamming on the break and let “Jesus take the wheel”. Not very practical, being as were here to HELP people, not cause them to take their own lives by way of accidental vehicular manslaughter. Yeah, live with that on your conscience. Useful purpose #2: Arriving first on scene, the lights allow passing motorists a chance to slow down, and see whats going on ahead of them so they may make a better decision on whether or not to continue going 55 mph in a 45 zone. Now this seems to be a little more practical. However, real life experience suggests that while some may do this, others will see it as a chance to see something awesome, speed up, and even be so mesmerized by the beautiful lights they actually veer toward them like a moth to a flame. So, here we have our practical uses for having red lights. There are some more variables though, you must consider.
One such variable is your ability to use something that unfortunately ALOT of people lack when it comes to red light usage: Commonsense. It’s a dying thing these days, commonsense. Some people have it, some don’t. Some people get it over time, some…. will never, ever possess it….. ever. One example is to go balls to the wall, red lights a shinin’ to, oh lets say a breathing difficulty. Your 3 miles out, but luckily the call is about 2 blocks from the station…. the currently staffed with some paid guys station. Time to let your engine loose and let the lights pave the way? Commonsense says: “no”. Dumbass firefighter behind the wheel says: “Well hell yeah!” I’ll give you yet another subtle example, this one from real life, personal experience. I hear my station get a stand-by 10-70 while I was monitoring one day at home. Of course this is go time, im in my truck and headed to the station before the actual tones go out. Were the red lights on? Yes. Page came out, 10-70 ( fire, to those who are fortunate enough not to be forced to listen to silly codes) and communications advised that this will be behind the residence, neighbors see someone behind their house through the woods, burning something and was worried their house might catch on fire due to embers floating in the air. (click) Red light off. What do I see when I get to the station? There goes the truck, balls to the wall, down the road and incoming firefighters with their lights a flashin’ as hard as they can go! This is what im talking about… commonsense. The neighbors were worried that embers from burning trash/rubbish were going to all band into a fiery flotilla of screaming death and march straight through the pine thicket to raze their home to the ground like a Roman army? Emergency traffic worthy? I think not. Yes, I have mentioned this through the Chain, and yes it still happens because nothing is said or done about it. Not my call.
All this boils down to, to me, is pretty simple. Should vols have the ability to have the red light in their car? That depends on the department. Do you have a crew and several trucks out the door within a min. and a half or so after the page? If so, then running lights in POV’s probably isnt necessary. Do POV’s often arrive on scene first, before the trucks? Lights, maybe useful. Do you have roads in your district that offer motorists the ability to get out-of-the-way safely?It all boils down to your ability to listen to a situation, and correctly assess whether or not driving a POV emergency traffic is WORTH the risk of plowing gammy and peepop off the road in order to get on scene. I know you love it, because I love it. Its awesome. We have the best job in the world! But my goodness, please be careful! You don’t want to live with the guilt of harming someone so you can be the one to put out that spot fire! Commonsense… the ELAFF word of the day!
Stay safe out there Brothers and Sisters!
Great post, Cap! I would like to point out that you are being a little geographically discriminatory. Volunteers use red lights in only some states. In many northeastern states, volunteers use blue courtesy lights on POV’s. Just an observation.
Observation noted Lou, however…. Chaos says ” Blue lights are for the po-po! Keep blue lights on POV’s for the Cops own wet dreams, Firefighters sport the color of the Dragons they slay!”
And BTW for all those english Majors out there, yes I KNOW Common Sense is two words, but chaos does not play by the rules of the civilized world! Dont defecate, Originate!
I really didnt want to chime in….but some things in this post bother me.
“If you ask a volunteer, of course they are! You aint no real fire man without em! If you ask a professional…”
The key word is professional. Not all career firefighters are professional just as not all volunteers are professional. Firefighters that do have lights on POV’s (remember some career firefighters also have lights so when they respond from home on off days or are recalled). Professional Firefighters know when to use their warning devices just as professional Firefighters know what manner they should be responding, properly.
I personally have a light and siren, my state laws allow it. I respond per the law, light on, siren used to warn other drivers and speed as posted, stopping at all signs and lights. I so understand not all “jolly vollies” do this but their is where the department must decide how they are going to handle their people.
Just remember before you throw stones, their are a lot of videos captured where “professional” firefighters driving department owned vehicles drive like idiots.
Just respond safe and be a professional!
Thanks for replying, Chris…even if you were reluctant to. We are not looking for this blog to be a definitive answer on topics, so readers will disagree at times. We’re looking for feedback from everybody, both positive and negative, so that we can use this as more of a forum for discussion…rather than just a place to voice our opinions. I understand your points, but I’ll let the Captain reply to your comment first. Thanks, again!
Absolutley right! Dont ever be reluctant to share your view or point! You hit the nail on the head that i placed in the board! Red lights are always a facinating topic around the kitchen table because of how up in arms people will get about them! Almost like telling the NRA your gonna take away their guns! I didnt mean to offend with the statement. I was simply conveying the attitude I have personally seen. Your comment is the point I was making there at the end, about using common sense and being careful. And this was only touching base with red lights on POV’s, driving with out exercising due regard in the truck is a whole ‘nother topic all together! Thanks for your comment brother, please keep checking in on us! Were always needing to add to the discussions! Were looking to spawn good discussions, and to get a fan base to do that, we have to press on those hot topic buttons! Keep riding hard and stay safe!
I’d like to add that I do agree with Chris’ point about the term “professional”. ALL firefighters, whether career or volunteer, should act as professionals. Despite what the IAFF says, the word professional IS NOT synonymous with career/paid. I know volunteers who are more professional than some career members.
It’s all good in the hood! Thanks for responding. Sometimes it is hard to see sarcasm in print form.
It has been sometime since I replied so just wanted to update you guys. I took off my overhead to prove some points to guys. A) You can make the station to get the truck without a light. B) People pay just as much attention to the light as the vehicle without one which is none. C) I get just as much respect without it on as I did with it on, once again, none.
Running lights and siren on a POV for some areas is a nessecary evil. Fortunatly Im in a position where its not needed, all the time.
The customer does not care if you run code in your POV, they only care that when they need the fd, you show up perform as a professional and make their day better…..
Be safe out there brothers
im glad this topic was brought up. i have only been on my deot for about a yr now and i love it. the best part about it IS running calls…some of the volunteers here have red lights in there truck/cars…but most of these people have TRAINING! that is one of the biggest things i think about when wanting a red light in my car…1) i am not 1 and 2 yet so running 1000 mph down the road with with a red light leading the way is unpractidcal cause i really cant do anything to help that out-house thats on fire….another is situation would be a car wreck, one the the volunteer’s on my dept thinks if a car wreck comes out he has to run lights…he has basicly no training in this area…so gettin there first and standing around waiting on the “perfessionals” is absolutely stupid….once i get all my trainging maybe just MAYBE then i will but the “blinking eye of the dragon” in my vehichle. but untile then its pointless my flashers work just fine!