Jul 24, 2014 9:12 PM by Andy Koen

No traffic light control for Pueblo fire trucks

PUEBLO - Time is precious for firefighters dispatched to an emergency and in many cities traffic signals are now equipped to give fire trucks a green light. But that's not the case in Pueblo.

Fire Chief Dale Villars says those systems can cost up to $15,000 per signal. He also says his firefighters respond pretty quickly without them.

"Our turn out time on average is about 70 seconds, and our response time is about 3:50."

Pueblo firefighters will travel through red lights en route to an emergency, but Villars says there are safety protocols to follow.

"We come upon a red light, we're still stopping, looking both ways before we proceed through; even green lights were still slowing down."

There is one signal in town that firefighters can control. It's the traffic light at Pueblo Boulevard and St. Clair Avenue near Fire Station 7.

Villars says the signal controller was installed due to the building's proximity to the Boulevard. It's close enough that the engine driver would have to nearly pull into traffic before oncoming drivers could see their lights.

News 5 asked Villars why the City wouldn't consider installing a similar controller at Fire Station 6 on the east side. As we've previously reported, firefighters who drive Engine 6 must pull into oncoming traffic on 4th Street in order to safely back up into the station.

Villars says a controller might stop eastbound traffic on 4th at the LaCrosse signal, but not westbound traffic.

"The direction that we would really probably need to hold traffic back, it wouldn't," Villars said.

Fourth Street, which is also Colorado Highway 96, is maintained by the Colorado Department of Transportation. However, the LaCrosse signal is the City of Pueblo's responsibility under a maintenance agreement between the two governments.

When asked about the possibility of installing a second signal to let the fire truck enter and leave, C-DOT traffic engineers said it would be a touchy project due to the short 250 foot distance from the station to the LaCrosse signal.

The City of Arvada and the City of Elgin,Illinois both use traffic control systems in their fire trucks and say it improves their response times.

While those community are similar in population size to Pueblo (approximately 109,000 people), they also have much larger tax bases. Arvada's annual revenue of $164 million and Elgin's $280 million dwarf Pueblo's $75 million.

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