Dallas Fire-Rescue is aiming to make highway accident sites safer for other drivers and first responders by adding more “blocker” vehicles.
“Motorists travel at a high rate of speed,” said Assistant Dallas Fire Chief Daniel Salazar, per NBC 5 DFW. “We may have curves. We may have elevated roadways where there’s not a lot of warning that an accident has occurred.”
Dallas Fire-Rescue (DFR) has started using an older out-of-service fire engine as a blocker. Most of the equipment was removed from the vehicle, and its water tank was filled with sand for better impact absorption.
“We can angle park,” Salazar said. “That way, they can block two lanes of traffic if need be.”
DFR added illuminated arrow signs to the sides of the vehicle to alert other drivers. The department intends to use two additional old fire engines as blockers, but they need repairs before they can be used.
“We would prefer that a non-front line piece of equipment takes that secondary impact if one occurs,” said Dallas Fire-Rescue Captain Rob Borse. “It’s not just the cost. It impacts our ability to provide emergency services to the citizens of Dallas if we lose that front-line piece of equipment.”
The City has also directed $300,000 in state funding toward equipping three other less expensive trucks with “scorpion” fold-down equipment that can be used to block a lane of traffic.
“While it can only block one lane, it’s is easier to get, and it is a much cheaper piece of equipment,” Borse said.
City of Dallas spokesperson Jennifer Brown told The Dallas Express that no money has been allocated to repurpose vehicles into blockers, but DFR has previously spent roughly $6,000 retrofitting old fire engines.
Brown confirmed that the three new blockers DFR has received were funded via grants.
In the past, multiple first responders have lost their lives while managing traffic accident scenes, including DPD Officer Mitchell Penton, whom The Dallas Express reported on, and Dallas Firefighter Scott Tanksley.
“The number one priority on any scene is safety, safety for our first responders, and safety for the residents of Dallas,” Borse said.
The Dallas Express asked the City how much of its taxpayer funding has been allocated toward this program, but received no response by press time.