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Fire truck crashes into hillside after brakes fail

Fire truck crashes into hillside after brakes fail

(Jeremy Robertson)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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DRAPER — Some local firefighters had quite the scare Friday when the brakes on their fire truck went out, causing them to crash into a hillside.

Fortunately everyone was wearing a seat belt, no one was injured, and only the fire truck sustained damage.

Jeremy Robertson, a captain with the Unified Fire Authority, said they were returning from a call in the SunCrest neighborhood when the incident occurred.

As they made their way down Traverse Mountain Road, they began to have trouble with the air brakes on Engine 114. Though they tried several maneuvers to apply the brakes and emergency systems to stop the truck, nothing worked.

As the firefighters continued down the steep hill with their lights and sirens on, they tried to notify the public and asked police to block traffic at intersections, Robertson said.

Eventually the truck came to a flatter area, where a Unified Fire ambulance slowed traffic in the right lane so the fire truck could cross.

The fire truck then continued up a dirt hill until the firefighters became concerned it might roll, and they turned back down the hill, through a ditch and onto the roadway, where they narrowly missed a concrete culvert, Robertson said.

Once they felt safe to drive it up the hill once more, they were able to come to a complete stop.

The damaged fire truck was towed and is now going through a third-party review and commercial drivers inspection, Robertson said.

Less than 12 hours before the accident, the fire crew discussed the possibility of a fire truck losing its brakes during one of their close call reviews, where they look at close calls on websites such as Firefighter Close Calls.

So I've been a firefighter for 19 years, and this is the first time it's happened to me. I don't hear of it happening very often locally.

–Jeremy Robertson, captain with Unified Fire Authority

"We had just read that morning about an accident in another volunteer fire department where a vehicle had lost its brakes and had ended up colliding with a police officer on scene," Robertson said.

Robertson said a full checkout/pump check was done that morning, but said this doesn't replace a full United States Department of Transportation pre-trip inspection.

"We were very fortunate that this accident did happen right above an area where we were able to safely collide with the hillside and bring the engine to a stop," Robertson said. "We're fortunate that this accident happened when we were returning from a call, so there was no patient care that was compromised, there was no delay in responding to another emergency."

Robertson complimented the Draper Police Department, which responded to the situation immediately and aggressively to help them protect the public from harm.

"So I've been a firefighter for 19 years, and this is the first time it's happened to me. I don't hear of it happening very often locally," Robertson said.

As far as lessons learned from the incident, Robertson said downshifting was the only thing that slowed the acceleration, seat belts should always been worn and though the captain's emergency switch is an additional brake, it won't stop a truck without brakes, even when it's in first gear.

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