A firefighter was killed, and two others were injured Saturday afternoon when their firetruck rolled off eastbound Interstate 10 in Beaumont. The firefighters were based out of a Moreno Valley area station and were likely responding to weather-related accidents on the freeway, officials said.
No other vehicles were involved, and the cause of the rollover is under investigation, said a California Highway Patrol dispatcher.
The death is the first on-duty firefighter death for Riverside County Fire Department in several years, said county fire engineer Rick Griggs at a brief news conference out of the Beaumont station. On-duty firefighter deaths are rare and are more likely to happen in a vehicle collision than in a fire, he said.
The names of the three firefighters involved in the accident near the Interstate 10 intersection with Highway 60 were not expected to be released until today at the earliest, but all were local firefighters, and two had worked in the county for several years, Griggs said.
One firefighter was moderately injured and remained hospitalized Saturday night, and the other was released. At Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Moreno Valley, there were six uniformed firefighters and a fire engine parked outside Saturday evening.
The loss of a fellow firefighter will be difficult for the tightly knit Riverside County fire community, Griggs said.
Because Riverside County firefighters are part of the California Department of Forestry, the location of firefighter deaths is difficult to determine from official records, which list CDF as the agency they work for and do not specify where firefighters are stationed.
In June 1996, Kenneth Schmutz died in a car accident in San Jacinto on his way to work after agreeing to work an extra shift out of the Temecula station.
This is the most recent on-duty Riverside County firefighter’s death that could be confirmed.
Fire engines have recently been involved in freeway collisions in the Inland area while en route to a call.
In March, a firetruck traveling to an accident on Interstate 10 collided with a casino tour bus on its way to Indio’s Fantasy Springs Casino. One man died and three firefighters were injured.
A year before, an Ontario firetruck responding to a car accident was hit on the freeway by an SUV.
In 2004, 107 firefighters nationwide died while on duty, with 20 of those deaths coming from vehicle collisions. Only nine were killed while responding to wild-land fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration Web site.