ORINDA -- A crash earlier this month that sent three Moraga-Orinda Fire District firefighters to the hospital and left a driver in critical condition will be investigated, officials say.
Fire Chief Randy Bradley said the district is hiring a consultant to assemble an independent team of fire service professionals to look into the Dec. 1 crash in which three firefighters were struck by an out-of-control vehicle on Highway 24 in Orinda during a major storm.
Capt. Michael Rattary, firefighter-paramedic Kelly Morris and firefighter Stephen Rogness had been investigating a noninjury four-car vehicle crash on Highway 24 when a car struck the side of their fire engine and plowed into the firefighters and a driver who had pulled over after hitting the engine.
The three firefighters sustained multiple injuries in the crash. They have since been released from the hospital.
Bradley told governing board trustees Dec. 13 that a final report would be completed within 60 days. He said Monday that he's waiting for a proposal from a second consultant and may go back to the board for approval Jan. 9, depending on the cost.
"I want to do everything possible for that not to happen again," Bradley said about the need for an independent investigation. "I thought it was really important to look at our policies and procedures to determine if there's anything we need to change to prevent that from happening again."
He also said he believes all personnel were following policy during their highway response. "There were no egregious acts," Bradley said.
In the meantime, the district has implemented a number of operational procedures firefighters now use when responding to freeway calls. Those include the addition of a large ladder truck from Station 41 in Moraga that will respond to all freeway emergencies to help "block" a scene and potentially provide more protection for firefighters, civilians and other equipment.
The district typically sends two engines to every freeway emergency, but only Engine 43 made it to the scene of the Dec. 1 crash. According to a preliminary report, Engine 45 from Orinda -- the other engine that responds to freeway calls -- was busy on another call, as was Engine 44, also from Orinda. Engine 42 from Moraga was canceled en route and diverted to another crash but was reassigned to the freeway after the firefighters and driver were struck, according to a preliminary report. A chief officer and medical unit were also there.
The district is also adding a second chief officer to freeway scenes to assist with traffic control, and incident commanders will have the California Highway Patrol shut down all lanes of traffic when safety conditions warrant.