Fire chief frustrated with curious people getting in the way of firefighters

Apr 8, 2022, 10:22 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 5:22 pm

ST. GEORGE, Utah — It could’ve been a lot worse. Firefighters say no one was injured in a St. George fire Thursday evening that damaged six buildings. However, it also might’ve been a lot better if firefighters weren’t blocked from responding to the fire.

Crews say people were in the way of their firetrucks because they were taking pictures and video of the fire with their cellphones.

“We had numerous cars, people that had no business being in the area pulling in and blocking our way,” said St. George Fire Chief Robert Stoker. “It did delay our response a little bit trying to get into the fire.”

Stoker knows people are curious about fires and doesn’t blame them for wanting to watch firefighters put it out.

When people get in the way of fire crews doing their job, though, that’s when it becomes a problem.

The outcome of this fire may have been the same, but what about the next one? It’s something Stoker says he is worried about during a follow-up interview Friday afternoon.

“If we have to evacuate an area, a subdivision or a neighborhood, and we have all the traffic coming into that neighborhood, it’s difficult for us to evacuate those residents,” he said.

Fire departments across the state are seeing a similar trend.

“If we were there to try to help their family, they wouldn’t want these obstacles in the way,” said Unified Fire Authority public information officer Aaron Lance.

Sometimes, though, those videos help with an investigation.

Last summer, UFA crews asked the public for videos on a Millcreek fire.

Investigators received several of them.

“We are at least 10 minutes behind from when an incident starts to when we get there,” Lance said. “It helped tremendously in decreasing the time it took to investigate that fire.”

Firefighters KSL spoke with say they don’t mind people taking video and pictures, but they would like people to stay out of their way so they can do their jobs, bring their trucks into position, and roll their fire hoses into streets.

“We need room to work,” Stoker said.

He feels when seconds count, fire crews should be able to get to a fire scene as quickly as possible.

“Fight the urge to come in and see what’s going on,” he said.

Stoker also said he’s noticing more read-end crashes with cars because the driver is trying to take a picture of the fire scene and slams into the stopped car in front of them.

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Fire chief frustrated with curious people getting in the way of firefighters