Volunteer firefighters and first responders in Saskatchewan have a green light, effective on Wednesday, to use flashing lights and sirens to get to an emergency.
The change, to implement new regulations announced by the provincial government last November, will allow volunteers to ignore some basic rules of the road in their private vehicles— when it is safe to do so. Their vehicles, however, must be outfitted with some form of flashing light and siren and be designated an emergency vehicle by the local government.
The new rules were sparked by the case last summer of a volunteer firefighter in Estevan, Sask., who was on his way to a truck fire. He was in a private vehicle, and when he came to a red light he looked both ways and drove through the empty intersection.
But police noticed him, and gave him a ticket. He fought it, but lost and was ordered to pay a $70 fine.
"The use of lights and sirens will help ensure the safety and security of Saskatchewan citizens when volunteer firefighters and first responders are on the job," Darryl Hickie, the minister of Corrections, Public Safety and Policing said in a release about the new rules.
According to the government, volunteers will also need to take some driver training.
Training courses, through the provincial Office of the Fire Commissioner, will begin in July.
Duane McKay, the province's fire commissioner, told reporters on Tuesday that he welcomed the new rules.
"Right now, if they were responding to the fire station in the middle of the night, they might be already exceeding the speed limits and so on, and they do so at their own peril," McKay said in describing the current situation for volunteers. "This really gives them an opportunity to have some protection, to warn others that they are on emergency business and hopefully to arrive there safely and then go about providing protection to other members of the province."