Fire Truck Crash Results in Lifting of Siren Ban

Fire Truck Crash Results in Lifting of Siren Ban

A fire truck crash, killing one fireman and injuring five others, two critically, resulted in the lifting of the ban against fire apparatus sirens in Washington, D. C., last month.

The fatal crash occurred on Tuesday afternoon, July 27, when the aerial ladder truck of Truck Company No. 1 collided with a large trailer truck at a downtown intersection when en route to a box alarm. The driver of the trailer truck was unable to hear the bell, the only warning signal on the apparatus, since he was in an enclosed cab and his truck was pulling a slight grade, adjacent to the intersection. The two heavy vehicles met in the middle of the intersection, the fire truck hitting the freight truck midway and causing it to overturn. The freight truck’s gasoline tank was ruptured and poured flaming gasoline over the entire area. Private Everett L. Owens, driver of the fire truck, was thrown from his seat, one foot was caught between the brake and clutch pedals and he was suspended, head down, in the blazing oil. Despite heroic efforts of two of his comrades who rushed in to pull him free, he suffered third degree burns over his entire body and died a few hours later without regaining consciousness. All other firemen on the truck were hospitalized for burns of varying intensity, even the tillerman being burned by flames which leaped up through the ladders before he could extricate himself from his lofty perch.

Public indignation at this tragic accident mounted hourly, fire department officers saying that such a thing was bound to happen sooner or later when fire apparatus had to respond through heavy traffic equipped only with the traditional locomotive bell, long since deemed inadequate as a warning signal in present-day motor traffic.

Washington’s fire apparatus had been responding since February 27 with only bells, and on some few pieces with inadequate exhaust whistles, to warn of their approach. The use of sirens was banned at that time by the order of the D. C. Commissioners, Washington’s municipal governing body. It had resulted in frequent delay of the apparatus in responding to fire alarms, in many instances causing apparatus to come to a complete stop and wait for traffic to clear before being able to proceed. Two crashes, resulting from citizens failing to hear approaching apparatus, had occurred since February, in addition to the fatal crash.

Following in the Footsteps of His Grandad Shown in the front seat of Engine 28 of the Bridgeport, Conn., Fire Department is Freddie, grandson of Captain Thomas F. Magner, FIRE ENGINEERING correspondent. Freddie looks pretty much at home in the seat of the big Mack.

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