There was a time in Pennsylvania history when all fire departments consisted mainly of volunteers. As the major cities grew up, the ranks of urban departments have become fleshed out with paid professionals. Volunteers are still evident in many departments, and they are particularly prevalent in rural areas.
But while the ranks of the departments may be made up of a variety of individuals, the one thing that is common to every man or woman in the field is that they face the same risk of being injured or killed on the job. And, as one recent accident shows, the risk of injury doesn't disappear just because the crew is headed back to the station. And the victims are not always the pros.
According to the reports, this accident occurred in the middle of last month. A crew of four was returning to its station house in a ambulance-like service vehicle after a fire in the Pocono region of Pennsylvania. The driver was a regular fire police officer. A second regular firefighter was on board. So were two teen junior firefighters.
As they were cruising along, suddenly a taxi approaching from the opposite direction crossed over the center line and the two vehicles collided head on. The cab driver was killed at the scene. Three of the four firefighter were hurt; two seriously.
Word of the accident spread quickly to other members of the fire department. Among them were the fire chief and a fire captain, whose sons were the two teens in the accident vehicle.
The crash had left the cab of the service vehicle a mangled mess. Doors wouldn't open so emergency crews had to extricate the victims.
The crash is still being investigated. In sorting out the extent of injuries just after the wreck it was determined that the two professional firefighters suffered the worst. One had cut his head and apparently suffered a broken jaw in the crash. The other, who had been driving, suffered a compound bone fracture and internal bleeding.
A benefit is planned for this month to help raise funds for the two injured firefighters as they recover. They might also wish to be in touch with attorneys to ensure that they receive the maximum allowed under workers' compensation.
Source: Pocono Record, "Coolbaugh firefighters get sobering view of damage from Tobyhanna crash," Andrew Scott, June 1, 2013