Troubleshooter: Firefighters' detour

ABC11 Eyewitness News I-Team Troubleshooter Diane Wilson

May 13, 2010 4:46:50 PM PDT
A local fire chief is asking the North Carolina Department of Transportation for a cut through to cut down response time.Since 2000, Bailey Fire Chief Tim Wilson has been fighting for an emergency crossover, the graded roadway that connects opposite lanes of a highway.

They are illegal for regular drivers, because they are supposed to be used for emergencies for police and fire departments.

They are all over the place, but not where the fire chief wants one. He says it could end up costing a life, because he is wasting valuable response time.

"Right here is one of the crossovers under the power lines that would be ideal," Wilson said.

The area in question is along U.S. Route 264 in Nash County between the Middlesex and Bailey exits.

"Oh, it would help a whole lot," Wilson said. "It would not only benefit us, but it would benefit Middlesex."

Middlesex and Bailey split the coverage of US 264. Middlesex fire crews respond to calls for help on the eastbound lanes of 264 and Bailey fire crews respond to all calls on the westbound lanes.

"A whole lot of times when they're dispatched they don't know if it's going to be east of NC 581 or west of NC 581," Wilson said.

Chief Wilson says that miscommunication often leads to the wrong department responding for help.

There are about 4.5 miles between the two exits and with no emergency crossover; Wilson says valuable time is wasted.

"If we don't get these crossovers and we've got to go to Middlesex and turn around and come back to Bailey, we've probably killed 10 or 12 minutes," he said.

But every time Bailey fire requests an emergency crossover, the DOT denies it.

"We need to have a demonstrated need," said Kevin Lacy with the DOT.

Lacy says the DOT takes the requests seriously. He says they have studied the area extensively, including crash data to see if there's a need for an emergency crossover.

"The information we reviewed and received has not been greater that we perceive the risk if someone using that crossover illegally," Lacy said.

Lacy says drivers illegally using the crossover is a bigger risk, potentially fatal.

"We are sure if we put in that crossover people will use it illegally and we do know from our experience people do get in crashes at these locations," Lacy said.

And the DOT says that risk outweighs the Bailey Fire Department's need for an emergency crossover.

"We understand the desire, we understand the want, but we haven't seen the need," Lacy said.

Chief Wilson says he understands the DOT's concerns, but he also says every second counts when it comes to saving lives. He plans to keep fighting for the crossover with the backing of Nash County commissioners and a state senator.

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