Double emergencies in Richland spread crews thin

Double emergencies in Richland spread crews thin »Play Video
RICHLAND, Wash. -- It was all hands on deck for emergency responders. Two separate events just a few miles apart had crews spread thin across Richland and traffic tied up for hours.

It took hours to secure each scene so we asked: Are there enough resources to handle more than one emergency and still get you the help you need?

As the Tri-Cities grow, so does the number of emergencies. Crews from six agencies rushed to a condo fire on Gage Boulevard in south Richland Monday. The added coverage was a precaution in case the flames spread.

James Hempstead of the Richland Fire Department said, "That's a lot more risk to us and to the community."

Gage Boulevard was blocked off eastbound from Leslie Road to just before Bellerive as crews rotated in and out of the building. They were trying to contain the scene, while keeping a close eye on the health of the firefighters.

About a half hour after the fire was reported, crews had to rush down to Columbia Center Boulevard. Traffic was once again at a standstill after a semi-truck turned over.

A Umatilla trucker in his 60s had taken the exit ramp off State Route 240 too fast, hitting the road divider and nearly toppling onto a car in the next lane.

The other driver, Catherine Orcutt, didn't want to go on camera. She was shaken up and just wanted to be on her way after helping the driver out of the cab. He had minor injuries.

Witnesses were stunned at the sight.

Angela Macias said, "It was amazing. He seemed like he was OK. They had him over in the ambulance for a minute, but it seemed like he was walking."

Emergency responders were spread thin. They were racing from one potentially dangerous scene to the next.

"We have mutual aid agreements, and it's set up for days like this," said Kennewick Fire Department Battalion Chief Tod Kreutz.

Officials assure us that there's plenty of help to go around. As they were handling these two major events, they were still able to respond to numerous medical calls.

Still, officials say they could be pushing their limits soon.

"We're all short on resources," said Kreutz. "We're all trying to build fire stations, get more personnel hired just for this reason."

The cleanup on Columbia Center took about four hours. Crews had to right both the cab and its trailer, as well as clean fuel off the road.