The Saskatchewan government is going to allow volunteer firefighters to install flashing emergency lights in their vehicles and to break some highway traffic laws if they are en route to an emergency call.
Currently, they have to obey all traffic laws as they go to the fire hall to get their equipment. But the government announced Thursday it will modify the Traffic Safety Act so first responders can get to the scene as soon as possible.
The issue came to the attention of Premier Brad Wall after CBC News brought the story to light in August.
A volunteer fireman from Estevan had been fined by police after going through a red light on his way to an emergency call.
He fought the ticket in court, but lost. He was fined $70.
After hearing about the story, Wall said he wanted to do what he could to help volunteers get to emergencies as quickly as possible. He also said he'd speak to officials about finding a common-sense solution.
With the proposed change, volunteer emergency workers will be able to take a special driver training course, after which they can legally put flashing red lights and sirens on their vehicles and drive as they see fit under the circumstances.
The government says it decided to make the change as a way of recognizing the importance of volunteer first-responders.
The news was welcomed Thursday by Dale Wagner, president of the Saskatchewan Volunteer Firefighters' Association.
It's not just about getting to an emergency quickly — it's also about being safe, Wagner said.
He recalled a time when he was first to respond to a person who had been struck on the highway.
"There were no lights. I responded with my private vehicle. Parked on the side of the road," he said. "I just about got hit by a vehicle that was coming down the highway."
There are more than 6,000 volunteer firefighters and first-responders in Saskatchewan.
If they complete the proper driving training, they can start using their flashing red lights next April.