When every second counts

A fire. A medical emergency. A traffic accident with injuries. These are just a few examples of everyday calls a fire department faces. These calls for help happen day and night. When a call goes out across a department’s pager system, the clock starts ticking. Every second counts from the time they get out of bed until they reach the person needing help. One of those departments, Crains Creek Fire Department in the Lobelia community, has faced a new obstacle when responding to calls recently.

Department of Transportation (DOT) placed a four-way stop at Lobelia Road and McPherson Road on Feb. 6. Crains Creek Fire Department is directly adjacent to this intersection. The main traffic flow travels Lobelia Road from either Spring Lake or Vass through this busy intersection daily. There has been a significant uptick in traffic accidents at this location over recent years, which was one reason for installing the four-way stop.

The new problem? Traffic stopping at the intersection now blocks the main apron in front of the fire station where the emergency vehicles enter and exit.

Evening traffic in front of Crains Creek Fire Department.

Shortly after the redesigned intersection went into effect, Crains Creek Fire Chief Kenneth Mackey told Sandhills Sentinel, “We have a real problem here.” When he realized traffic was backing up in front of the station, he reached out to DOT.

Their resolution was to place a road sign on the east side of the fire station that states, “Do Not Block Driveway.” The sign did not make much difference, according to Mackey. During several recent calls, personnel had to clear a path using emergency lights and sirens while entering and exiting the station, which severely extended their response time when it mattered most.

“Cars are stopping directly in front of the station and blocking our access,” Mackey said was his main concern about the setup. “Cars are also cutting through our station’s parking lot to get to McPherson Road while also blocking that driveway, some members have trouble getting to the station.”

The station placed signs on the McPherson side stating “Emergency Vehicles Only.” Even that didn’t phase some vehicles.

While talking to Mackey, Sandhills Sentinel witnessed these issues firsthand.

Vehicles were also seen cutting down a private dirt road running parallel with Lobelia Road from the Gold Star Food Mart to the Dollar General opposite the fire station, and those same vehicles were seen speeding through the parking lot to cut through and beat the long line of traffic that was backed up. Mackey added, “I’m really afraid someone is going to get hit just walking in and out of the store over there,” pointing at the Dollar General.

A lot of the extra traffic coming through the area is due to a culvert project on Manchester Road. Fort Liberty stated on its Facebook page that the road was expected to remain closed until May 14.

During the morning commute, eastbound traffic has been backed up as far as Morrison Bridge Road, and during the evening commute, westbound traffic has been backed up as far as where the county line meets Fort Liberty.

DOT has been made aware of all of the new concerns and is working on a resolution, but in the meantime, everyone is asked to please adhere to the road signs in place. Someone’s life may depend on it.

Feature photo: Motorists sit in traffic on Lobelia Road near Crains Creek Fire Department on Feb. 20.

~Article, photo and video by Sandhills Sentinel reporter Daniel Gwyn.

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