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Harmony fire chief talks about the danger for emergency crews working on roadways

January 21, 2020 Digital Media Exclusive

A school bus passes the I-79 on ramp intersection on Little Creek Road, near Seneca Valley High School Tuesday.

It's a dangerous job, but it doesn't have to be.

In the midst of inclement weather last weekend, one fire department encountered a dangerous situation that put the lives of its crew at risk.

Harmony Fire District responded to a one-vehicle crash Saturday morning on Interstate-79 near mile marker 81.

Chief Scott Garing, of Harmony Fire District, said that while no one was injured in the crash, the accident was the least of his crew's worries.

“It was on a blind bend, and we protected the scene,” Garing said. “It was just a continuous bend, so they couldn't see the crash scene.”

To slow traffic down, firefighters set one of their trucks to block one lane of travel and to slow people down about one mile ahead of the accident.

Garing said by the time some drivers reached the scene, they had returned to speeds of around 70 mph with weather still a factor.

“Someone's going to get hurt or killed,” Garing said. “I'm going to get someone hurt or killed on the interstate (as opposed to getting) killed in a fire.”

According to data compiled by the Emergency Responder Safety Institute — an advisory panel of public safety leaders committed to reducing deaths and injuries to emergency responders nationwide — 44 emergency personnel were killed last year alone by vehicles while on the job.

This is an excerpt from a larger article that will appear in Wednesday's Butler Eagle. Subscribe online or in print to read the full article.