Fort Leonard Wood firefighters rig pulley system to get rescuers in place
The Fort Leonard Wood Fire Department was one of five area departments responding Wednesday afternoon after a multi-vehicle crash resulted in a tractor-trailer fire at the bottom of a steep embankment and a missing driver along the westbound lane of Interstate 44 near the 159-mile marker.
The St. Robert Fire Department first reported the incident at 2:10 p.m., with installation firefighters automatically responding as part of the department’s Highway Response Plan, according to Fort Leonard Wood Fire Chief Brad Bowling.
“The initial units on the scene found the tractor-trailer had gone through the barricades and down an embankment,” Bowling said. “Our engine tanker and heavy-rescue (tanker) responded, along with the St. Robert Fire Department and the Waynesville Fire Department.”
The Crocker Fire Department and Tri-County Fire Department also responded when a county-wide call for tanker support was issued, Bowling said.
“Our crews arrived on (the) scene and assisted with putting out the fire, searching for the driver and bringing water to the scene — which we have to do any time there’s a highway fire because there are no hydrants out there.”
Fort Leonard Wood crews also helped devise a way to get firefighters in position to knock down the blaze.
“Because the vehicle was down a steep embankment, it was very challenging to get our crews down there, and we had to rig a pulley system to get personnel down that embankment,” Bowling said.
As crews extinguished the blaze, rescuers located the driver uninjured in the woods below the accident scene. The incident, which required portions of I-44 to be shut down, was cleared at 4:30 p.m.
Bowling said the incident was the latest example of the value of mutual-aid agreements between area departments.
“This was outstanding work by our crews,” Bowling said. “We have mutual-aid agreements with all of Pulaski County, and we routinely respond in Pulaski County on various incidents, including structure fires and highway incidents. As part of the mutual-aid system, we automatically go out on certain incidents, and over the years, we’ve built relationships with the other departments that have proved extremely valuable. Many of the departments are smaller, volunteer departments and will need our help at some point. At the same time, when we have had fires on post, those guys have been here assisting us. The repetitive use of those agreements has proved extremely beneficial with several real-world calls.”