Firefighters Asking Drivers to Pay Attention

By Cierra Putman
NewsWest 9

Flashing lights and sirens coming down the road usually means there's an emergency, but some drivers don't seem to care.

At least that's what the West Odessa Volunteer Fire Department is telling NewsWest 9.

That apathy is making some firefighters say sometimes getting to a fire can be the scariest part of their day.

"I had one this afternoon when a guy pulled out," West Odessa Volunteer Firefighter, Buckey Lipsey said. "Instead of pulling out in the first lane, he pulled into the second lane and almost hit me."

Lipsey has fought his share of fires knowing there's risk involved, but the flames don't scare him as much as driving to the fire.

"Our trucks are designed to go through the brush," West Odessa Fire Chief, Jimmy Ellis, said. "The big brush trucks have great big grill guards on them and that will mangle a car. Even the little trucks will mangle a car. One of the bigger problems is getting people to pay attention to the emergency vehicles.  It doesn't matter if it's a volunteer fire truck, a police car, DPS, ambulance, anything; if it's got red lights and sirens on it, they need to pull over."

Vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of firefighter deaths.

While the West Odessa Volunteer Fire Department has had less than a handful of crashes in 20 years, firefighters fear the number could go up.

It doesn't help that newer vehicles are built a little more sound proof, but here are a few things you can do to make sure you know what's happening around you.

Number one; turn down the radio. That will make it easier for you to notice if an emergency vehicle is coming up. Two, spend a little less time texting and talking on your cell phone. Three, make sure you're paying attention to your mirrors and checking them every couple of seconds.
When you see a fire truck, pull to the right, so it can pass you on the left. Ellis says it's common courtesy and the law.      

"Just give us a break, let us do our job," Ellis said. "We're not trying to inconvenience anybody or hurt anybody. We're not trying to make you late for work. That's not our deal. We're just trying to do a job and do it safely."