Zeeland Twp. fire truck falls down ditch en route to crash

Crews work to pull out a firetruck from a ditch on 72nd Avenue off of Chicago Drive in Zeeland. (Jan. 12, 2017)

ZEELAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) – Ottawa County crews spent most of Thursday morning righting a Zeeland Township fire truck that crashed while en route to another wreck.

It happened around 4:15 a.m. Thursday near Chicago Drive.

The fire truck was on its way to an injury crash involving a car and semi-truck on I-196 when the driver lost control on the ice. The southbound fire truck slid across the northbound lane and drove into a ditch before rolling on its side.

The three firefighters aboard the truck, including the 57-year-old driver, suffered minor injuries.

“Everybody was treated and released. We’re just so thankful that nobody was seriously hurt,” said Zeeland Township deputy fire chief Tom Jekel.

The rig, known as Aerial 642 on the fire radio, is the township’s go-to truck. Carrying a hose, pump, extra water, a 50 foot ladder and a large array of rescue equipment, it’s equipped to handle most emergencies.

Insurance should cover the engine’s $750,000 replacement cost, but it won’t speed up the replacement process.

“We use it pretty extensively, so this is going to be a moderately big impact for us here in the township,” said Jekel.

The truck was built in 1998 and rebuilt in 2004.

“It does take a good bit of time, possibly six months to a year to go through all the details of specifying a new truck,” he added.

Other equipment may also have been damaged.

“We’re going to have to put the hose through some testing so that it can stand up to pressure. We’ve got some hydraulic rescue tools on there that we’ll go back through and make sure they’re in good shape,” explained Jekel.

Zeeland Township is like the majority of local fire departments: small. Its firefighters are part-timers who operate out of two stations.

So unlike Grand Rapids and other larger fire departments, there are no spare fire trucks in Zeeland Township to replace the wrecked one. That’s where other neighboring departments come in, with offers of a truck to fill in until the wrecked unit can be fixed or replaced.

“We try to help each other out and so that’s something that we’re very blessed with here,” said Jekel.

He said the accident should serve as a reminder to other drivers: “Unless it’s an emergency, nobody should be out on roads like that.”

For the Zeeland Township Fire Department, an emergency called.

“Based on initial reports and not knowing what the further investigation is, there really didn’t seem to be anything that driver could have done besides not leaving the station, to avoid that accident,” Jekel said.