CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — As summer winds down, many soon-to-be driving aged students are winding up their drivers education classes.
But in Kentwood, drivers education is still up and running — that is for firefighters.
Pat Quick climbed behind the wheel of Kentwood’s newest war wagon in the battle against fire.
“Going through traffic and what not, getting cars to move out of our way, to the right properly. Sometimes it gets pretty tight,” said Quick as he fires up the 53,000 pound Michigan-built Spartan Metro Star pumper.
The rig has plenty of modern technology, like anti-lock brakes, to make the ride safer.
But for the firefighter behind the wheel, the challenges go beyond the technology.
“A lot of times you’re going to have to weave through traffic to get through…the way cars stop and park and everything like that,” said Quick. “You’ve got the sirens going, the air horns and you’re concentrating on traffic. Making sure intersections are clear. Know nobody’s coming. Stuff like that.”
Kentwood Fire Department Lieutenant Clarence Patterson, also a state certified driving instructor, describes the course.
“He’s doing a diminishing lane,” said Patterson as Quick drives the rig through a portion of the course. “The lane starts out at 9 feet 6 inches and ends up at 8 feet 2 inches. It’s just, again, to keep control of the vehicle and know how wide it is.”
All 44 Kentwood firefighters are going through the training, piloting the machine through the straight-a-ways, the slalom, even the parallel parking sections of the course.
While most think the most dangerous part of firefighting involves fire, getting to and from can be risky too.
Sixty-four firefighters died in the line of duty in 2014. Fourteen percent of those deaths were from crashes.
“Twenty-five percent of of all accidents happen either going to or coming back from an emergency call. Generally at intersections,” said Patterson.
There’s another reason behind the required drivers education for firefighters.
Kentwood’s new engine cost some $425,000 so they’re also protecting the taxpayer’s assets.