Pull over for the flashing green lights, say firefighters

Firefighters are calling for the public to be more aware of what the flashing green lights in a personal car signal -- that a volunteer firefighter is on their way to respond to an emergency call.

Used on personal vehicles to let the public know firefighters are on en route to an emergency

Highway 3 is closed at Sexton Side Rd., according to Tecumseh Fire. (Rob Heydari/CBC)

On Ontario roads, green usually means go.

But in Tecumseh, the fire department is reminding motorists to pull over or yield if they see flashing green lights.

In Ontario, volunteer firefighters can place flashing green lights in their vehicles if they are responding to an emergency call. The lights are meant to signal to other motorists that they are travelling to an emergency. 

Doug Pitre, Fire Chief for Tecumseh (Rob Heydari/CBC)

The law in Ontario does not require motorists to pull over for flashing green lights; it is voluntary. While only firefighters can use flashing green lights, they do not have any additional privileges under the Highway Traffic Act.

Motorists are only required to pull over and stop for emergency vehicles such as police cruisers or fire trucks. "It doesn't offer [firefighters] any preferential treatment," said Tecumseh fire chief Doug Pitre.

However the courtesy of pulling over when you see a firefighter's green lights can have a big impact.

Dan Redmond is a volunteer firefighter in Tecumseh, and uses a green flashing light in his personal Jeep when responding to an emergency call. (Rob Heydari/CBC)

"If people pull over it makes all the difference in the world," said volunteer firefighter Dan Redmond. 

Volunteer firefighters must first travel from their homes to the fire hall, so if traffic yields to them it can speed up response times.

"The guys that are coming from the outskirts with traffic being the way it is, it's tough to get here quick," added Redmond.

Flashing green lights for firefighters are approved in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.

Bob Hamilton, Fire Prevention Officer for Tecumseh, holds up one of the flashing green LED lights volunteer firefighters install in their personal vehicles. (Rob Heydari/CBC)

The green lights have been used in parts of Essex County for around twenty years now, and took some getting used to by both the public and firefighters alike.

"It was a little strange," said Bob Hamilton, fire prevention officer in Tecumseh. "I've been around for a long time and when we first started them it was just a couple of little lights on there and people were going what is that?"

Two volunteer firefighters have equipped their personal vehicles with flashing green lights for responding to emergency calls. (Rob Heydari/CBC)

Hamilton added that many on the road are aware of what the green lights mean, and the fire department has huge appreciation. "Every second counts in this business," he said.

"It just allows us that courtesy to get there quicker. If we don't, there could be somebody's life at stake," said Hamilton.