CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – A few seconds could have drastically changed a Canfield firefighter’s life.
In November, the Canfield Fire Department responded to an accident on the turnpike. While they were on the scene, they were hit by a passing motorist.
Now, one of those firefighters is sharing his story and launching an awareness campaign for drivers.
Troy Kolar has been a firefighter for 16 years. He has been on a lot of calls, but Nov. 5, 2014, is a day he will never forget.
He and his partner, Brian Blevins, were getting ready to get out of their truck and help out with an accident on the Ohio Turnpike.
“I looked into the mirror before we had stopped and there was a car stopping behind us and I didn’t even see the truck coming,” Kolar said.
A pickup truck towing a car hauler hit them.
“We didn’t realize what hit us until we got out of the vehicle. There were cars upside down and it took us a few seconds to realize exactly what had happened,” Kolar said.
That accident caused a chain reaction, sending cars everywhere. A 27-year-old woman from Maryland was killed.
Weeks later, Kolar and his wife decided to start an awareness campaign for what drivers need to do when they see first responders. They asked students at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center to design a logo. Kolar’s wife teaches at the career center.
“The big thing was making a logo that would stick in people’s minds while they are actually driving and that is why we went with the steering wheel idea because that is what most people are seeing while they are driving,” MCCTC student Aiden Frith said.
Frith designed the logo with fellow student Jordan Butch.
“Everything had to be original, so their whole entire design had to be original but work together as one unit,” MCCTC Visual Arts and Design instructor Melissa Hackett said.
She said the students looked at response scenario from a driver’s perspective and they ended up blending two designs, a steering wheel and first responder logos.
“Two really strong images alone, but together they just like hit home what we were trying to do,” Hackett said.
The idea to raise awareness also took off and is now a non-profit organization called First Responders First Inc.
The goal is to help provide equipment for local first responders and educate drivers about what to do when they see a fire truck, ambulance or police cruiser.
“In situations where you are not sure what to do, it is always best to not move. If you want to put your four-way hazard lights on, that lets us know you we are coming and just sit there until we clear,” Kolar said.
The organization already has held fundraisers and has applied for some grants.
“Departments that are not able to have the current safety equipment needed, we’d like them to eventually be able to write into us. We will then make a decision with our board of directors to help acquire safety equipment that they need,” Kolar said. “If a department needed vests or flares or specific items for that department, we’d like them to be able to contact us and hopefully start giving back to the community.”
The plan is to educate drivers in the Valley first and then hopefully take it national. Kolar said if one life is saved, it is worth it.