Busy Florida Forestry fire crews tripped up by traffic

- At the Myakka River District, Florida Forestry rangers have been working non-stop.

"Our fire rating right now is extreme. With the winds that we've been having, fire can pick up and move very, very quickly," said Duty Officer Brett Steffen.

Steffen said when that happens crews have to move quickly.   But, it doesn't always go as smoothly as planned.   Lately they've been running into a lot of roadblocks on State Road 70.

"We've had units sitting here and we've had to push the button two or three times just to get people to stop so they can get out," said Steffen.

Steffen said the wait can last five minutes or longer.   That's a crisis when every second is valuable.

"Those five minutes could be the difference between us trying to save it or there being damage or losing it completely," he continued.

Emergency flashing lights and signs warn drivers not to block the intersection, but they block it anyways.
Blocking any intersection -- especially one used by emergency vehicles -- is considered a moving violation. 

In Manatee County, tickets will cost you just under $200.

"If you are sitting in a lot of traffic and all of a sudden you see that emergency light go on, that means vehicles will be coming out. So don't inch forward and continue to block the road," said Dave Bristow with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Development is part of the problem.  Traffic has jumped 20 percent on State Road 70 in the last year. At peak times, traffic stacks up waiting for a light at Lockwood Ridge.

Manatee County officials said they've retimed the light, but it's up to drivers to follow the rules.

"You can't really tell when you go from the season into the summer, so this is going to be an ongoing problem with traffic on State Road 70 and people just need to be aware of their surroundings," continued Bristow.

After all, the crews could be the ones coming to your neighborhood.

"It could be your house, it could be your family members, it could be your neighbors whose houses are threatened," added Steffen.

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