Firefighters push for policy reform in wake of French death - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Firefighters push for policy reform in wake of French death

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GRAYSON COUNTY, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Western Kentucky Parkway runs from Elizabethtown to Eddyville, but the 10 miles closest to Clarkson are what Ken Lashley calls home. Firefighters there are taking a stand, trying to protect themselves a week after one of their own was run over and killed on the job. 

"It's every week or so, we do a lot of business up there," said Lashley, the Assistant Chief of the Clarkson Volunteer Fire Department. "We work a lot of bad accidents up there. All we want to do is go to the emergency, take care of what needs to be taken care of and go back to our jobs, our girlfriends, our wives, kids and families. That's all we want."

The sudden death of Glendale firefighter Jonathan French, who died after being hit by a semi on I-65, has this department changing its own policies.

"The biggest protocol change is we're rolling out a second engine on anything on Western Kentucky Parkway for the purpose of parking ahead of the scene and blocking traffic," Lashley explained.

He says the problem is cars don't get over when they see the florescent vests or flashing lights, and they don't even slow down.

On the same day French died, Clarkson closed a section of the Parkway while tending to another wreck. The transportation department wanted it reopened. The fight was getting so bad, the firefighters left the scene.

"We were receiving calls here at the district office people saying they'd been sitting for an hour," said Patty Dunaway, an official at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Transportation leaders say they don't stop emergency responders from blocking traffic. They walk a line between public safety and public convenience and sometimes shutting down a road can cause even more wrecks in the backup.

"There is a point where the emergency is over and we do need to take into consideration the motorist stuck in traffic and their safety," said Dunaway.

Lashley claims the real problem is the new policy breaks an unwritten rule.

"They have preached to us to get the road open as soon as possible because it restricts the flow of commerce," Lashley said, a claim that Patty Dunaway refutes.

The two sides stand far from common ground. So on Thursday, emergency officials from throughout the County are meeting to discuss the issue.

Lashley hopes other small town fire departments will follow Clarkson's lead.

"It's a shame someone has to get killed before things change," he said.

Thursday's meeting is scheduled for 10 p.m. Central Time. 

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