Bottle-hurling incident prompts firefighters to take extra precautions
Special from the Newark Post
— Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Co. is taking precautions after someone hurled a glass bottle at one of its fire engines as it was racing to an apartment fire last week.
“It is incomprehensible that someone would do anything that would endanger the lives of firefighters,” spokesman John H. Farrell IV said. “At 45,000 pounds of steel and water, a crash of a fire engine of this size would surely injure or kill firefighters on the apparatus or civilians in other vehicles.”
The incident happened at approximately 10 p.m. Thursday on West Chestnut Hill Road near the Academy Hills neighborhood as firefighters were heading to a reported fire at Oak Tree Apartments on Wenark Drive. The road is poorly lit, so firefighters didn’t see the person who threw the bottle, which shattered the windshield on the driver’s side.
No one was injured, and the driver was able to slowly proceed the remaining half-mile to the fire scene.
“The driver was able to slow the rig and maintain control of the fire engine,” Farrell said. “He was able to keep the apparatus on the roadway, considering he had little viewing area left to see through the remaining glass.”
The damage will cost the volunteer fire department more than $1,000. The engine, housed at Station 8 on Ogletown Road, will be out of service for some time, and Aetna had to move an engine from another station to fill its place.
Farrell stopped short of asserting that the incident was a purposeful attack on firefighters – it could, he said, have been just a poorly-conceived childish prank – but said it is concerning in light of recent national events and has prompted Aetna to implement safety precautions.
“Because of heightened concerns over being targeted along with law enforcement, stations have been told to keep apparatus bay doors down,” Farrell said.
At Station 9 on Academy Street, the problem has been compounded by trespassers lured there by the popular smartphone app Pokémon Go. The app designated the fire station as a “Pokéstop,” where users can load up on virtual supplies for the game. Farrell said there were several incidents of Pokémon players wandering into the firehouse.
The need for added precautions is sad, Farrell said, noting that the fire stations have always welcomed visitors, whether they were neighbors looking to chat or kids excited to see a fire engine up close.
Farrell said that in his 48 years in the fire service, he never experienced an Aetna fire engine being targeted.
However, a search of the Newark Post archives uncovered a 2013 incident in which an unruly crowd attempted to block Aetna firefighters from assisting with a house fire near Elkton, Md. One person climbed atop Aetna’s ladder truck and another yelled “(Expletive) you. This is my neighborhood,” police reported at the time. One defendant later pleaded guilty to obstructing firefighters and was sentenced to six moths in jail, according to court records.
State troopers are investigating last week’s bottle incident, and anyone with information is asked to contact Cpl. Jacquelyn Reed at Delaware State Police Troop 6 at 302-6335000. Information may also be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333, via the internet at www.delaware. crimestoppersweb. com, or by sending an anonymous tip by text to 274637 (CRIMES) using the keyword “DSP.”
Someone hurled a bottle at an Aetna fire engine last week, shattering the windshield.