Bridges, culverts change fire response

Public safety: Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One adjusts to privately owned bridges it can’t safely cross

of the GatewayFebruary 12, 2014 

The landscape of the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas makes living here a little different. It can make emergency response a little different, too.

There are currently 11 bridges or culverts that Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One can’t cross safely because there’s no proof of inspection. Those bridges may not be able to handle the weight of water trucks and engines.

“That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t respond,” Division Chief Eric Waters said. “It means our response would change dramatically.”

What it means is fewer vehicles crossing, or possibly taking hoses across on foot, Waters said.

Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One’s vehicles range in weight from about 30,900 pounds and to about 40,000 pounds. In some cases, such as a bridge at 6328 Artondale Drive, engines may not be able to cross, but other vehicles, such as a Medic Unit or other support vehicles can, Waters said.

The bridge on Artondale Drive can handle 32,000 pounds, he said.

The Raft Island bridge is the most high-profile project on a list of small bridges that create problems for emergency responders. Construction is underway to replace the trestle bridge that was built in 1956.

The tax parcel information of residences served by a troublesome bridge is tagged, so emergency responders know not to cross, or to change the plan of attack for an emergency. When a call comes in, potential problems are made aware, Waters said.

The effort to find those risk areas began in 2010. It culminated with a list in 2012, and compliance with the fire department was good, Waters said.

“We knew that we had bridges out there that were of concern,” he said.

The agency created a list of bridges and culverts and notified property owners.

The effort to contact property owners is not about forcing a new regulation, a concern that came up during the public input process, Waters said. It’s really about information.

“At the end of the day, the property owner still has the right to provide us the information or not,” he said. “We just want them to understand how that will impact our response.”

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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