Officials worried about truck traffic

FOLLANSBEE – Emergency and industry officials with the Brooke County Local Emergency Planning Commission are concerned about large trucks accidentally veering into residential areas of cities.

Officials with Wheeling-Nisshin and the city of Follansbee have reported truck drivers inadvertently turning onto Mark Avenue and other residential streets because Veterans Drive, the industrial access road leading to the steel firm and other industries on the city’s west side, isn’t found in Global Positioning Systems.

City Police Chief John Schwertfeger, who was called for comment, said one incident led to a truck striking a parked vehicle. He said the problem seems to be more common for trucks approaching the city from the south because the sign for Veterans Drive is less visible.

Schwertfeger said one problem is there are no industries with a physical address on Veterans Drive, and city officials are hoping to alert GPS companies about the issue.

Follansbee Council also has instructed City Manager John DeStefano to post signs prohibiting large trucks from whichever streets appear to be a problem.

Weirton Fire Chief Jerry Shumate said the problem isn’t a new one. He noted last year large trucks traveling southbound in Weirton were reported turning onto Marland Heights Road thinking they were heading for the Half Moon Industrial Park on Freedom Way.

Weirton officials posted signs in an effort to alert truck drivers.

The local emergency planning commission agreed to seek help with the problem from the state Department of Transportation. The group met Friday at a conference room at Wheeling-Nisshin to discuss issues involving emergency response.

Mike Bolen, the group’s chairman and a sanitarian with the Brooke County Health Department with experience in emergency response, said the group has been revived in recent months with the intention of broadening its focus.

The group has been made up of members of local fire, police and ambulance departments and officials with area industries who worked together to plan responses to emergencies involving hazardous materials, often through simulations of such incidents.

Bolen said the group now aims to prepare for a variety of emergencies, with input from local industries still key.

On Friday Bob Fowler, county emergency management director, praised area emergency departments for their response to a fire at a natural gas well drilling site off Genteel Ridge on April 8.

Twelve fire departments from Brooke County and Western Pennsylvania and three ambulance squads were dispatched to the scene. Fowler said no one was hurt in the fire.

The responders included the Brooke County Tanker Task Force, a group of pumper trucks from Brooke County fire departments called when water must be transported to fires in rural areas.

Franklin Community Fire Chief Larry Palmer said the fire started when a hydraulic line from a pump broke, creating a spark when it mixed with exhaust from a natural gas pumper truck. Palmer said five trucks were destroyed by the blaze but firefighters managed to prevent the fire from spreading to several other trucks that were parked in close proximity. He said a safety official with FTS International, a subcontractor working for Chesapeake Energy at the site, directed the firefighters in extinguishing the fire.

In other business, Fowler said a $10,000 state grant has been secured to outfit the county’s emergency mobile command center with a telescopic camera system.

Funded with state grants and contributions from local municipalities, the vehicle also will be able to boost radio reception for firefighters and others responding to emergencies in rural areas, he said.

Fowler added the vehicle will be used in future drills conducted by the LEPC.