It’s a sad irony that fire departments, while essential to public safety, are often a major obstacle to safer streets in American cities.
When cities try to redesign streets to reduce traffic injuries and get drivers to travel at safer speeds, the local fire department often steps in to prevent changes that it believes will hinder the movement of its enormous trucks. Fire departments prefer wide traffic lanes and street corners designed for turning trucks — exactly the sort of conditions that lead to higher rates of traffic injuries and deaths.
There are plenty of experts who argue that firetrucks should be designed to fit streets, not the other way around, but these critical voices usually come from outside the fire safety profession.
Well, that might be changing. In a post at FireChief.com, retired battalion chief Robert Avsec says there’s definitely a case to be made that American firetrucks are too large: They aren’t as maneuverable in heavy traffic, they’re expensive, and they’re inefficient for trips that aren’t fire emergencies.
The public would be better served, Avsec argues, by smaller trucks, like those used in European and Asian cities: