Some Fire Departments Are Supporting Change for the Sake of Safer Streets

A few pioneering fire departments are making room for safety (while demanding less space) on city streets.

2 minute read

May 30, 2018, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Emergency Response

mikeledray / Shutterstock

An article by Angie Schmidt reports on the early signs of a shift in the politics of street design in the United States. First, the background on the relationship between fire safety and traffic safety:

Fire officials often insist on wide clearance to operate their large vehicles, which can be at odds with the principles of safe street design. When cities want to narrow car lanes or add bike lanes to make streets safer for walking and biking, fire departments often water down or even stop the plans before they can get started. Even though traffic fatalities outnumber fire deaths in the U.S. by more than 10 to 1, fire officials tend to get the final word.

That familiar narrative isn't true in every corner of the country, however, and Schmidt points to Portland, Oregon, "where the Fire Department participates in the street design process led by the city’s Bureau of Transportation," for an example.

The Portland Fire Department's support safe streets doesn't stop during the design process, the Fire Department has followed up by tracking the performance of streets after changes.

“There has been no reduction in response times by working with urban planners and transportation leaders to build out Portland,” [Portland Fire Chief] Myers said on a recent webinar hosted by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

Schmidt also finds another example in San Francisco, where the city has purchased eight smaller "'Vision Zero' engines made by Ferrara Fire Apparatus that can execute sharper turns than typical American fire trucks," according to Schmidt.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 in Streetsblog USA

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