The 12-second clip posted on the Facebook page of Oakland Firefighters Local 55 shows an engine, lights flashing, swarmed by a crowd Saturday night, a delay that cost them 14 minutes.
#DEVELOPING “It was chaos...” says @OaklandFireLive after an @Oakland fire rig on its way to a medical call was swarmed by a crowd of #FourthofJuly revelers near Lake Merritt. Some climbed onto engine.Took 14 minutes to get through...on a call that normally takes 2-3 minutes. pic.twitter.com/BxZTZS5A9s— Laura Anthony (@LauraAnthony7) July 6, 2020
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Engine Company 10 was on its way to treat a nearby resident, a young woman who had been slipping in and out of consciousness, but the firefighters never got there, because of the crowd.
"It was chaotic," said Assistant Oakland Fire Chief Robert Lipp. "They came close to the rig. Then they had one or two people who climbed onto the rig and once that happened, there were more and more people who decided to climb up on top of it."
"We were all out there, we were on our way," said Officer Johnna Watson, with the Oakland Police Department. "Good communications with our fire department partners, they were able to turn the rig and leave the area safely," she added.
Lipp said the firefighters inside the rig were finally able to talk the Fourth of July revelers into climbing down off the engine.
This time, a separate ambulance did make it to the patient, but there are deep concerns about next time.
"It's unacceptable, inexcusable," said Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo. "When we see those flashing lights, we're attending to an emergency, and we need to cooperate as citizens, neighbors, visitors. Please allow our vehicles to get to the emergency, because there's someone suffering," he said.
Recent crowds around the Lake Merritt have been huge. Not just on holiday weekends and that includes rampant use of illegal fireworks.
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Watson said the incident has prompted police, fire and city officials to hold a meeting on Tuesday to discuss ways to deal with the large number of people congregating at Lake Merritt in recent weeks.
Likely solutions include greater parking enforcement and traffic control to limit crowd sizes, a crackdown on fireworks and celebratory gunfire and enhanced education about the importance of masks and social distancing during a pandemic.
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