Fire trucks control highway lights again

The system that allows fire trucks to control traffic lights on Highway 97 is working again after a eight-month hiatus.

Fire trucks using Highway 97 on both sides of Okanagan Lake can move through traffic a little easier again.

On Friday, West Kelowna Fire Rescue announced the province has finally fixed what is known as the emergency traffic pre-emption, the ability for fire trucks to change red lights to green on the highway, or hold them on green for longer so they can get through when speeding to a fire.

The system also works for transit buses, which can hold a green light longer but not change a light from red to green.

“We are extremely pleased with the ministry’s attention to see this important emergency response system fixed,” said West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund.

“Our vehicles can travel much faster with it in place and our emergency responders and the public are safer with the assurance that a green light will await us at intersections.”

The system was initially installed in 2007 and was in use until last April  when it was shut off for repairs. Those repairs took longer than expected and  the fire chiefs on both sides of the lake

Recently, Kelowna council called on the province to speed up repairs to the system after hearing Brolund’s concerns at a pubic meeting.

The repairs only affected Highway 97 through Kelowna and West Kelowna.

The emergency traffic pre-emption system along Highway 97 only allows specially equipped emergency vehicles to activate the system as they approach intersections. Using GPS, the approaching vehicle’s position, direction and speed is relayed to the system allowing a green light for emergency vehicles.

Brolund said West Kelowna Fire Rescue appreciates the complex nature of the pre-emption system, particularly given its potential impacts to the travelling public.

But he was very grateful to the ministry for resolving the issues because without it, both his firefighters and the rest of driving public ran the risk of traffic accidents and response times to emergency calls were affected.