NEWS August 15th, 2017

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Navigating construction is daily challenge for fire crews

Emergency services struggling to keep up with latest congestion hazards

BRIAN BAKER/STREETER SIGNS OF THE TIMES: Pedestrians, drivers and emergency services are experiencing the pinch of construction in midtown.

Every morning, when Syeda Hussaini walks to work, the North Toronto resident witnesses the logjam that afflicts Broadway Avenue and many other streets around Yonge and Eglinton.

One day, at 8:45 am in the morning, she saw a fire truck turn onto Broadway from Yonge, and it was met with cars not able to pull over.

“Basically, it couldn’t move, regardless of how loud the sirens were going,” the 24-year-old telecommunications professional said. “The cars were not able to get out of the way because of the construction.”

Add the TTC buses, re-routed from Eglinton Avenue, along Redpath to Broadway, as well as a hit-and-run in April at Erskine Avenue, and it raises concern, she added,.

Deputy Chief of Operations, Mike McCoy assured Toronto Fire is aware of the construction and has a strategy on how to approach the ensuing congestion.

There are 12 fire stations in midtown, and each one is responsible for heading out into the community to survey the work and potential hazards.

“Luckily for us, we’re busy enough that our crews are constantly out in their districts,” he told the Streeter in a mid-July phone call. “They’re going out on calls, coming back from calls, refueling, they’re on the streets anyway.”

And McCoy is aware of streets like Broadway Avenue and the impediments they can have for stations, like 134, that cover the area.

Emergency construction cannot be predicted, but for long-term projects, like the high-rise condos littering Yonge and Eglinton, as well as medium density projects, they get the plans to look over.

Many of the smaller developments will feature new streets, and that’s when they determine whether their vehicles can navigate freely.

“If an aerial can get around a corner, a pumper certainly can,” McCoy said, adding EMS have similar issues navigating the streets, though their ambulances are smaller in size.

When it comes to Broadway Avenue, he said he understands that citizens have nowhere to go when an emergency vehicle is on its way.

“It’s good for us to know (of construction). Most of the time we will assume (a street) is passable,” he said. “Obviously in emergency situations, we have sirens. Even with lights and sirens, traffic that wants to pull over will have no place to pull over.”

Along with station reconnaissance, other stations will go out on similar calls as a way to cut down on risks.

“Peak hours, we’ll be mindful of that, and we may go a route that may add a bit of time,” McCoy said. “But, in affect, at least we’re guaranteed to get there.”

That’s of some relief to Hussaini, who has only lived in midtown for five months after moving from Markham.

“I’ve never lived in an area this busy before,” she said. “I’m still not used to all the cars on the road.”