Firefighters in Queens Won’t Rush to All Calls
A million times a year, fire trucks are driven into the streets of New York City, usually at breakneck speeds with lights and sirens blaring. The rush is often critical: Firefighters converge on fires, douse the flames and save lives. The same response applies in less serious situations — calls that are not life-threatening, which are expected to reach around 230,000 this year after steadily rising from 41,054 in 1969. But with 35-ton rigs barreling through red lights and forcing traffic off the roads or through busy intersections, accidents occur, sometimes with deadly consequences. Nearly 700 times last year, the city’s fire trucks collided with other vehicles and, occasionally, with one another. Now, for the first time, the Fire Department is re-engineering its approach: Its plan, set to begin on Monday as a three-month pilot program in Queens, is meant to slow firefighters’ responses to certain calls by having them turn off their lights and sirens and follow the usual traffic rules.