Small-town fire chief taking steps to keep firefighters safe from distracted drivers

BECKEMEYER, Ill. – A small-town Illinois fire chief is determined to make sure emergency responders are safe when they are on an accident scene.

Luke Baker, chief of the Beckemeyer Wade Fire Protection District, said motorists continuously refuse to slow down or move over into the other lane as required by law.

Because of poor response from drivers, Baker said from now on, his crews will shut down roads in both directions when working a traffic accident in order to keep emergency responders safe.

“People can’t get it through their head they need to slow down,” he said.

Chief Baker posted a message on the department’s Facebook page, warning that from now on roads will be closed when there’s a crash.

“It’s mostly distracted drivers looking at their phone,” he said.

The chief was keenly aware of the more than 15 Illinois state troopers who have been struck or killed working a traffic accident this year. Chief Baker’s department had a close call this past weekend, although no firefighters were injured.

“We’ve had traffic cones run over, we’ve had equipment hit struck while we’ve been on scene,” Baker said.

Beckemeyer citizens seemed to support the chief’s decision. At Frank’s Corner Kitchen, folks were talking about the decision to close down roads in the area when necessary.

“I believe in people’s safety first,” said customer Darlene Johnson.

Another customer, Ken Becker, added, “It’d be frustrating but it’s for the good of the people working the accident.”

The chief said he will try to find detours for drivers who come upon the accident scenes but the road will be closed to protect people trying to save the lives of other folks.

“I’d hate to be responsible for telling one our member’s families they’re not around anymore cause they got hit on an accident scene,” said Assistant Fire Chief Jeremy Pate.

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