PALO ALTO — A Palo Alto Fire Department fire engine suffered major damage in an early fatal collision on Highway 101 Sunday morning, August 1, 2021.
A crew attached to Engine 64 was designated as the “safety support vehicle,” a practice where certain engines are positioned on the scene of incidents as a roadblock to oncoming traffic.
The Engine 64 crew was tending to a solo vehicle crash that occurred on Highway 101 southbound, just before Embarcadero Road at 3:30 a.m. At 4:30 a.m., the driver of a white box truck carrying a load of baked goods struck the fire engine on the left rear portion of the vehicle. The fully loaded engine, which weighed 30,000 pounds with its equipment and 500 gallons of water, spun counterclockwise upon impact.
“It moved the fire engine, it was almost perpendicular to the road after it got hit. It went towards the center divider,” said CHP Officer David Morey.
The Engine 64 crew immediately began rescue on the driver. Given the extent of the damage, it took about 30 minutes to cut away the wreckage. The driver, an adult Asian male, died at the hospital. The man’s identity was withheld pending notification of next of kin.
Palo Alto Fire Chief Geo Blackshire says the firefighters were following proper protocol, in parking the truck in a way that formed a protective roadblock from wayward drivers. By pointing the tires away, the truck would get pushed away from first responders in the event of an impact.
“It worked exactly as it was supposed. It was a worst-case scenario,” said Blackshire, “I don’t think it’s inconceivable to believe that if that engine wasn’t parked the way it was, where it was, being hit by a major vehicle, the outcome could’ve been terrifying.”