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Chronic Problem-Illegal Parking Obstructs Firehouse Fire Zone



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Chronic Problem—

Illegal Parking Obstructs Firehouse Fire Zone

By Andrew Gorosko

If the view of the Newtown Hook and Ladder firehouse, at the rear of Edmond Town Hall at 45 Main Street, seems a lot more orange than it used to be, you are not imagining it.

The broad area in front of the red-brick firehouse has sprouted a thicket of bright orange plastic traffic-hazard cones, positioned there by firefighters to remind motorists that vehicle parking is prohibited in that area, where fire trucks must travel while responding to calls. Newtown Hook and Ladder firefighters responded to approximately 600 various calls in 2003.

The no-parking fire zone is posted with signs painted on the firehouse. Also, markings prohibiting parking are painted on the pavement within a broad, deep area in front of the firehouse. However, the heavy use of road sand this winter has obscured and abraded those pavement markings.

Midday last Thursday, January 29, Newtown Hook and Ladder firefighters received a call to respond to an alarm at Sand Hill Plaza at 228 South Main Street. At that time, the portable orange cones were not positioned in front of the firehouse and firefighters found seven motor vehicles parked in the no-parking zone, explained Corey Robinson, Hook and Ladder’s first assistant fire chief.

Mr Robinson, who drove the fire company’s lengthy ladder truck to that fire call, found the illegally-parked vehicles obstructed the fire truck’s clear passage to Main Street.

So, instead of driving the fire truck out of 45 Main Street’s exit-only driveway onto Main Street, Mr Robinson had to maneuver the fire truck around the obstructing vehicles and drive against traffic, going out of the enter-only driveway onto Main Street.  

The fire call at Sand Hill Plaza turned out to be a false alarm.

The Hook and Ladder firehouse faces a parking lot that it shares with the heavily used Edmond Town Hall. Traffic travels in a loop through that common parking lot, entering the site via a northerly driveway and exiting onto Main Street via a southerly driveway. The firehouse was built about 70 years ago, when traffic was not a problem.


Police Notified

On January 29, firefighters alerted police about the parking problem in front of the firehouse. Police responded, but explained that because the area was not properly posted to prohibit parking, there was little they could do, Mr Robinson said.

When the traffic cones are positioned outside the firehouse, they make it obvious that parking is restricted there, he said. But the cones must occasionally be removed for snowplowing, he noted.

Overnight, those traffic cones sport “No Parking” placards.

The town hall often has multiple nighttime functions, generating heavy parking demand, Mr Robinson noted. The town should impress upon the public that parking is prohibited in front of the firehouse, he said.

Firefighters find vehicles illegally parked in front of the firehouse at least once a week, Mr Robinson said. Occasionally, driving fire trucks out of the enter-only driveway is the only way for a fire truck to get to Main Street, he said.

Mr Robinson noted the town has an overflow parking lot that lies to the west of the main parking lot behind Edmond Town Hall. When the main parking lot fills up, the other lot normally has parking spaces available, he said.

“Be cognizant there is a firehouse here. We have a fire zone here,” Mr Robinson stressed.

Mr Robinson noted that the night of Saturday, January 31, was a busy night at town hall. Firefighters found that motorists had parked in uninterrupted rows in the rear parking lot, in effect, blocking potential travel by a fire truck, which is kept in a rear garage bay at the firehouse. Although there was no fire call that night requiring that fire truck to get out of the firehouse, the truck would not have been able to travel were it necessary to do so, he said.

Firefighters called police about the parking problem on the night of January 31. Police had the motorists who were blocking the rear parking lot move their vehicles.

On that night, one sport-utility vehicle driver, who had illegally parked in a clearly marked fire zone at the southwestern corner of town hall, received a parking ticket.

Mr Robinson said that firefighters will now need to place orange traffic cones in both parking lots to preserve the parking-prohibited fire zones.

Newtown Hook and Ladder keeps five fire trucks at the firehouse. Four garage bays face the main parking lot; one garage bay faces the rear parking lot.

Police Chief

Police Chief Michael Kehoe said that the fire-zone in front of the firehouse is such a broad, deep area that it poses some practical problems in enforcing the parking prohibition.

Posting vertical “no parking” signs in that area would create physical obstacles to fire truck travel, he noted.

The snow, ice, and road sand that lie on the parking lot in the wintertime obscure the pavement markings that prohibit parking, he said.

“This has been a problem for many years,” he said.

Chief Kehoe suggested that an attendant be present during heavily attended events at Edmond Town Hall to ensure that the area in front of the firehouse is not obstructed by parked vehicles.

The police chief also suggested that a traffic engineer be consulted to study the town hall parking situation, with an eye toward making improvements.

“It’s a very difficult situation,” the police chief said.

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