Three area fire departments will share protective barrier truck for highway crash scenes

This 2019 crash on Interstate 75 totaled a Liberty Twp. fire truck that was serving as a protective safety barrier for an EMS and firefighter crew working a collision and injury scene on the road's shoulder. That crash and loss of the fire truck has now prompted Liberty to enter into a agreement with West Chester Twp. and the city of Monroe to instead use a 1999 fire truck for crew protection from other vehicles at future crash scenes on high-speedy roadways. FILE PHOTO

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This 2019 crash on Interstate 75 totaled a Liberty Twp. fire truck that was serving as a protective safety barrier for an EMS and firefighter crew working a collision and injury scene on the road's shoulder. That crash and loss of the fire truck has now prompted Liberty to enter into a agreement with West Chester Twp. and the city of Monroe to instead use a 1999 fire truck for crew protection from other vehicles at future crash scenes on high-speedy roadways. FILE PHOTO

A highway crash into a Liberty Twp. fire truck shielding first responders at an emergency scene has now led officials to partner with two other township fire departments in sharing an old truck to serve as a physical barrier against such potentially deadly, high-speed collisions.

The crash three years ago saw a vehicle plow into Liberty’s fire truck alongside a highway shoulder, forcing the spending of $1.3 million for a new township fire truck.

Now thanks to a new agreement between fire departments for Liberty, West Chester townships and the city of Monroe’s department, EMS and firefighters who respond to emergencies along local highway stretches will now be protected by a 1999 Sutphen pumper truck acting as impediment to any out-of-control vehicle endangering their lives.

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“We had an incident when a ladder truck was hit back in 2019 and was totaled by a semi where the driver fell asleep,” said Liberty Twp. Fire Chief Ethan Klussman.

“We were using our front-line truck as a blocker,” protecting EMS and fire department personnel attending to a highway crash.

Using the township’s best fire truck as a protective wall “just didn’t make sense,” said Klussman.

“We were out a ladder truck for a year while they (manufacturers) made one because they don’t just sit on a lot somewhere,” waiting to be purchased, he said.

Using the Sutphen pumper truck, valued at less than $8,000, “makes much more sense.”

The agreement, which is a now a memorandum of understanding, creates a traffic crash unit to be dispatched to stretches of national and state highways crisscrossing portions of Liberty, West Chester and Monroe.

These highly traveled, high-speed roads include Interstate 75, Ohio 129 and Ohio 63, said Klussman.

The shared, protective truck is expected to be used more than 100 times annually, he said.

It’s a first joint-operating agreement for Butler County of this type, he said.

“It’s done in Texas and that’s actually where I got the idea after attending a conference for the international association of fire chiefs.”

“This is going to make first responders much safer as they work on high-speed (roadways). And it will slow traffic down a little bit but that’s part of the design of it,” he said, adding the truck will be outfitted with high-visibility lighting and warning signs.

The blocker truck is expected to be ready for use, he said, in August.

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