Emergency crews fear snow-tightened city streets will make fire, EMT response difficult

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In a job where seconds and minutes matter, road conditions can make all the difference for emergency personnel. 

“The time factor is really a big issue,” said Wes VanVickle, of the Minneapolis Fire Department.

At Fire Station 6 in Minneapolis, crews went out Wednesday morning to take inventory of all the side streets and the prognosis wasn’t good.

“It’s nerve-wracking for our drivers to be driving and your mirrors are going over the tops of cars and you have like 6 inches on each side of you,” VanVickle said.

In cities like Minneapolis, where street parking is common, the snow pack has pushed cars closer and closer to the center, giving very little clearance to large fire trucks.

“There are streets in the city right now that we can’t go down because it’s too tight,” he added.

VanVickle said they’ve had calls this winter where they’ve had to park on the corner and stretch their hose 200 to 300 feet because they can’t get to the front of the house.

Meanwhile, EMTs have to figure out their way around huge snow piles blocking sidewalk access.

“If you ask the street medics…it’s not so much the driving. It’s getting over the snow hills,” said a Hennepin Healthcare EMT. “Sometimes we’ll actually have to dig through the big hump on the boulevard.”

First responders say there are a few things you can do to make sure they get to emergency scenes as quickly as possible:

  • Shovel an access to the sidewalk in front of your house
  • Shovel a clearing around fire hydrants
  • Make sure your house numbers are cleared of snow and visible
  • Park as close to the snow bank as possible