Fire Truck Causes Own Emergency in Philadelphia

A quiet Sunday morning in November turned into a frightening experience for Jamall Henderson and his neighbors.

A Philadelphia Fire Department ladder truck jackknifed on Baltimore Avenue between 54th and 55th streets.

“I thought they were coming through my front wall,” Henderson told the NBC10 Investigators.

The ladder truck crashed into crashed in cars, sending one into Ludlow Harding’s shipping business.

“We had to replace the security gate and push out the wall,” according to Harding.
But residents wondered if anyone was held responsible.

The Philadelphia Police Department did not issue any tickets related with the crash. In an email a spokesperson wrote, “There were no traffic violations issued to the Fire Operator as they were operating in emergency mode at the time. The crash was due to a combination of a curve in the road, trolley tracks, wet conditions, and speed too high to compensate for these factors combined. Only parked cars were struck.”

Philadelphia Police could not determine the speed of Ladder 13 at the time of the crash.
Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer believes this is one of the worst fire truck accidents he has seen. Four firefighters were injured. One is still recovering while off the job.

One firefighter was disciplined for the crash and Sawyer says the driver was speeding. "I think a lot of people would believe that whenever you operate an emergency vehicle that you can go as fast as you want but we still have laws that we have to follow which means that we have to follow the speed limit,” Sawyer says.

It’s unclear whether Ladder 13 will be repaired. Similar trucks cost between $500,000 to one million dollars.

“Once you talk about the damage to the truck and the cost of repair versus the cost of what the truck is worth currently then you make a decision on whether or not you want to repair,” according to Sawyer.

To put the crash in perspective, the fire department responded to 370,360 calls in 2015. It had 319 accidents, ranging from minor side view mirror damage to the Ladder 13 crash.

The City of Philadelphia received four claims related to the accident. One has been settled. One is pending resolution and the other two are open.

Harding did not file a claim. He thought the process would be too slow and he needed repairs done quick. License and Inspections cited him for the damage to his property caused by the fire truck. He had thirty days to make the repairs or face fines.

His insurance company paid $15,000 to fix the metal gate and façade. Harding believes the damage could have been much worse.

“Lives could have been lost. We’re just so, so lucky that no one lost their life,” Harding says.

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