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Engine slides down icy hill

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Our engine was dispatched to an injured child. This was secondary to a sledding accident on a steep hill in a suburban neighborhood. The address was located at the end of a cul-de-sac, at the bottom of a steeply graded hill. The recent weather conditions had provided snow, sun, and then refreezing temperatures. This had caused the roads to be bare and dry in some places, with other areas fully or partially iced over.

The main route to this address was bare and dry. Upon entering the neighborhood where the call was located, the engine company came upon icy road conditions. The driver of the apparatus had already disabled his engine brake. He advised the captain that he was going to deploy his On-Spot automatic tire chains for the access to the address dispatched. As the engine entered the residential street, it was obvious that the road was a solid sheet of ice. We began to descend the mild grade down towards the cul-de-sac. The driver stated that the chains were doing a good job of controlling the apparatus descent and the speed of the descent was controlled using down-shifting techniques.

The streets downward grade increased dramatically approximately 200 feet from the cul-de-sac. The engine slowly dropped down the hill into the cul-de-sac, pulling to one side of the rounded street. After stopping, the driver shifted the vehicle to neutral, set the air brakes, and all the members exited the cab of the apparatus. Immediately after exiting the vehicle, the driver set the wheel chock in place behind the driver’s rear tire.

The other fire fighters and the driver began to remove the EMS equipment from the apparatus. One of the fire fighters noticed the vehicle begin to slide downhill. The engine was picking up speed and heading straight for a house, a vehicle, and potentially, down the side of a hill into a ravine. The engine was sliding with the wheel chock in place behind the wheel. The fire fighter yelled, “The engine is moving” and was running towards the cab. He reached the cab, opened the door and jumped in. He turned the wheel of the vehicle and began to regain control. The fire fighter who jumped in the cab, stayed with the vehicle while the other two members on the engine attended to the patient. This could have been a very bad situation.

Lessons Learned

We reviewed the incident immediately after the call was under control. All members agreed we should probably have never attempted to descend the hill without either chaining ,or not positioning apparatus so close unless it was a fire. In the future, in a similar situation, we plan on parking farther away on a stable surface and walking in. Emergency pre-planning could have saved us a problem by training us to avoid this specific situation before it ever had the chance to happen.

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