First Responders Brave the Elements

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By Sam Jones
By Andy Shofstall

WILLIAMSON CO. -- The storm is keeping firefighters and emergency responders busy. Calls are up and so are the challenges of getting to the scene.

It's a tough week for departments across the region.  They're pulling long hours and allowing more time to get where they need to be. In their business, every minute counts, and dealing with Mother Nature isn't easy. 

"I would rather deal with eight inches of snow than a thin layer of ice. At least with snow you can get some traction on it," explained Lake of Egypt Fire Chief Kirby Crites.

While major routes are clear, his crews face treacherous side streets.

"Getting to some of these areas is still a challenge for us," he said.

That didn't stop the department from responding to five different calls Tuesday night; a number much higher than their norm. 

"Most of the things we dealt with last night were [people] driving too fast," Crites added.

As soon as one situation was under control, they moved onto the next. From vehicle crashes to semi-roll-overs blocking major roadways, it was tough to keep up with the high demand.

"What we were personally dealing with last night was a lot of freezing ice, black ice," he recalled.

The fire trucks aren't equipped with four wheel drive, which means an even slower response time.

"Forty miles-per-hour is about the safest we could drive and respond," said Lieutenant Mike Leuchtenberg.

He struggled to maintain control when the Williamson County Fire Protection District was called out Tuesday night.

"People just wouldn't stop. They were rolling and I was worried about sliding and maybe hitting them as I was trying to respond," he said.

Lake of Egypt utilizes chains on most vehicles, but their ambulances have been stranded before. Situations they try to avoid.

"The last snow storm we had, we actually ended up putting a patient in my car, moving it to the ambulance," added Crites.

Time is of the essence for the people they help and the responders themselves

"Interstates are dangerous for us to be on and we try to get what we're doing done and [get] off as soon as we can," Crites shared.

The departments plan proactively by keeping more responders on hand during bad weather. They rely heavily on mutual aid too.

Marion Regional
Current: 55°
Clear
High: 57°
Low: 34°
Wind: 7 MPH
Pressure: 0.00
Humidity: 33 %

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