Don’t sink and drive.
The Wellington fire department has new signs warning drivers to stay off flooded roads. They’e designed to avert tragedies like the one that cost firefighter and diver Allan “Buz” Anderson Jr. his life in 2006.
Anderson, 47, drowned attempting to rescue two teenagers who tried to drive through water crossing Pitts Road. The teens survived.
The department — officially known as the Wellington Community Fire District — in January purchased 12 signs for $2,000 warning drivers against against crossing flooded roads and streets, said assistant fire chief Bill Brown. The money for the signs was raised by the Wellington Firefighters Association.
Firefighter and association treasurer Derrick Oswald said the purchase was to honor Anderson — the association also awards a $1,000 annual scholarship in his name — and prevent future drownings.
The approximately 30-member department has a water rescue team comprised of four rescue divers and two dive tenders and a six-member swiftwater rescue team.
Between 2004 and 2012, firefighters responded to at least 12 water rescue calls including the incident in which Anderson died.
The incidents occurred in Penfield and Pittsfield townships and Wellington. The department also covers Brighton, Huntington, and Wellington townships. The district covers 125 square miles.
A state law passed last year and named after Anderson makes it a misdemeanor with a fine up to $2,000 to drive on a public street or highway marked closed due to flooding.
Fines are paid to rescuers. Those defined as rescuers under the law include ambulance services, fire departments, political subdivisions, and state agencies.
Brown said in some incidents, including the one that took Anderson’s life, motorists drove around road closed signs. He hopes the new signs, which mention the $2,000 fine, will discourage that.
“If that road’s not blocked (and marked) then the law enforcement aspect goes away because we’re not telling the people,” Brown said.
The department closes roads when they are flooded with at least six inches of water. That’s enough to reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of control or stalling, according to the National Weather Service.
A foot of water will float many vehicles and two feet of rushing water can carry away cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.