Everyone knows a fire truck can block traffic anywhere anytime to fight a fire or respond to any kind of emergency call.
However, Winnipeg firefighters can apparently also pull up in a no-stopping zone on a busy thoroughfare and tie up traffic to pick up pizza.
And in the case observed by a Free Press reporter, it all played out half a block away from the fire station in the heart of Osborne Village on Friday night.
Despite the traffic delays and raising questions about the appropriateness of using a large fire truck for a pizza run, no rules were broken by the firefighters, says Michelle Finley, a spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.
"We have determined that the crew followed policy," she said, when asked by the Free Press this week for an explanation.
Returning to Fire Paramedic Station No. 4 from a call, firefighters ordered several pizzas from nearby A Little Pizza Heaven, she said. However, the order wasn't ready when they arrived. So the fire truck remained parked outside, blocking one lane of northbound traffic for several minutes in a no-stop zone.
The rescue vehicle eventually pulled away to the station half a block away, leaving two firefighters in the restaurant to await the order. The truck could be seen a few minutes later backing into the station.
A short time later, the same vehicle was back in front of the pizza restaurant, but this time it didn't stay long. It picked up the two firefighters who were waiting inside, but hadn't yet received the pizza, and whisked them off to what the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service later said was a non-urgent medical call.
At the same time as it picked up the two firefighters, the fire-rescue vehicle dropped off at the restaurant two different firefighters who are assigned to No. 4 station's fire engine. Those two later emerged with several large pizzas, which they carried back to the station on foot.
"It's not uncommon for them to pick up food using WFPS apparatus while on duty," Finley said, adding first responders never know when their meal breaks will occur, and staff are not permitted to use their own vehicles while working. While firefighters are allowed to use WFPS vehicles while on duty to purchase food and other supplies, they must be ready at all times to respond to a call, the city says.
In this case, the two rescue vehicle firefighters who had been separated from their crew remained in radio contact with the fire paramedic station, as did the two fire engine firefighters who replaced them at the pizza place, Finley said.
Alex Forrest, president of the local firefighters union, said crews always remain together while on duty so they can respond to a call. They would only have allowed themselves to be separated in this case because they were so close to the fire hall, he said.
Forrest said it is common for fire crews to stop for food or groceries while on duty, but unlike other city workers they will interrupt a meal — or a shopping trip — at a moment's notice to respond to a call.
"Their shift starts at 6 o’clock, they plan supper for 8 or 9 o’clock and the crews (often) don’t eat until 4 in the morning. That’s just the nature of firefighting," Forrest said.
He said when out shopping, it's typical for two firefighters to remain with the truck and park it in a place where it is not blocking traffic.
The city does not cover costs for food and beverages consumed in fire paramedic stations, Finley said.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.