Private bridge crossings pose risks to firefighters - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

THURSDAY, September 2, 2010

Private bridge crossings pose risks to firefighters

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - Firefighters are issuing safety alerts to property owners about driveways that cross over bridges and culverts. Countywide, hundreds of these crossings are not up to code, meaning fire engines may not be able to access your home during an emergency.

When fire season hits, homeowners expect firefighters to respond fast. But all too often, fire engines have to stop or even turn around because they are blocked by private bridges that can't handle the load.

"The risk is, if you go over a structure that can't handle the weight and width of this vehicle, it will cause damage to the engine an its occupants," John Byrne of the Valley Center Fire District said.

That's exactly what happened to a San Pasqual fire engine three years ago.

"What you're looking at is an engine that crossed an unsafe structure in the Witch Fire in 2007. And the picture speaks for itself. It's in the drink," Byrne said.

Byrne is in the process of photographing and mapping all bridges and culverts in his district to see if they're up to code.

"We have 439 identified and mapped currently. And we have a lot more to look at," he said.

By law, bridges on private property have to be posted with signs in both directions displaying the maximum load the bridge can handle.

The City of Vista sent out notices to property owners last year advising them that bridges need to be inspected and posted.

"There's a lot of pieces of the puzzle to wild land fire safety, which is good vegetation clearance, posting addresses so we know where the houses are, and posting the capacity of the bridge so we know that we can drive over them," Vista Deputy Fire Chief Don Shellhammer said.

The Valley Center fire marshal may soon be sending out similar notices to hundreds of property owners so they know the risks associated with bridges that are not up to code.

"We're going to come. We're going to do the best we can do, but it may not be as fast as it would be if we were to go sailing across the structure," Byrne said.

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