2 hurt after Anchorage fire SUV struck vehicle during shooting response

An Anchorage Fire Department vehicle in downtown Anchorage. (Joey Mendolia/Alaska Public Media)

Two people were injured Wednesday when an Anchorage Fire Department SUV responding to a downtown shooting collided with another vehicle, officials said. 

Firefighters said the collision occurred around 8:30 p.m. at the intersection of East 6th Avenue and Ingra Street, near the 5th Avenue Mall parking garage where police say a man was fatally shot that night.

AFD spokeswoman Lexi Trainer said the department vehicle involved in the collision was a Chevrolet Suburban SUV, heading from downtown’s Station 1. It was being driven “code red” by a paramedic, with the vehicle’s lights and sirens activated, Trainer said in an email Friday.

According to Trainer, the vehicle was using the Opticom system of override devices fitted to Anchorage traffic signals. The devices can abruptly change a signal to a green light for an approaching emergency vehicle, allowing it to pass without waiting for the signal to change.

“For example, a light may be green but change to yellow, then red for all other directional traffic, ensuring that only the first responder’s light is green when driving code red,” Trainer said.

As the Suburban passed through the intersection, it hit another vehicle, Trainer said. 

The Suburban suffered significant front-end damage. The paramedic and one other person were injured in the collision, Trainer said. She said the paramedic was treated and released at a local hospital that evening. Trainer said the crash didn’t affect medical services at the shooting as other fire units were at the scene.

Firefighters deferred further questions about the collision to Anchorage police, who said they were still gathering reports on it Friday morning.

Trainer urged local drivers to be aware of the Opticom system’s presence at traffic signals, and “the importance of staying alert while driving to avoid running red lights.”

Department officials are awaiting word on whether the Suburban is repairable, Trainer said. She said it’s one of several AFD vehicles set to be replaced after doing so was authorized Tuesday by the Anchorage Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson.

The department currently has six Suburbans, Trainer said, and no service issues are expected due to Wednesday’s crash.

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cklint@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Chris here.

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