Trains cause delays for area firefighters

By WEEK Producer

January 25, 2013 Updated Jan 25, 2013 at 10:49 PM CDT

Firefighters were called to a blaze on First Street in Canton Thursday. But on the way they ran into a roadblock.

"We had a train cross our path and we had a delay in our response of a couple of minutes," said Canton Fire Chief frank Keith. "It was short enough that it passed but it was still a couple of minutes delay."

Canton isn't the only community in the area where responding to emergencies is complicated by rail traffic.

In East Peoria the city's central house fire station sits right next to the tracks. If the alarm sounds and there's a train crossing fire trucks can only go one way - to the west.

"It's a situation that happens routinely," explained East Peoria Assistant Chief John Knapp. "I won't say that it happens everyday but it certainly happens on a regular basis. We'll be blocked by trains.

And that increases response times.

East Peoria's central fire station is located only a few yards west of the railroad crossing on West Washington Street. Their biggest potential for problems comes when there's a train obstructing the road and a call comes in from just across the tracks to the east.

In those instances a dispatcher will quickly contact one of the city's other two fire stations for support. But according to Knapp, even with the assistance the response time can double.

"We know right off the bat we are going to have at least two to three minutes, as much as four minutes that we're going to have a delay getting to that person or situation of need. Its an unfortunate reality of commerce today that, in our particular area, we have railroad tracks everywhere," Knapp said.

That means planning ahead and sometimes re-routing on the fly. New roads and overpasses in East Peoria have made that slightly easier.

"Because of the levee district development and the advent of a couple of new bridges that has significantly helped our response (when) we do have to go around the trains," said Knapp.

Every minute saved can make a difference.