Wausau Fire Dept. has new tool for faster response - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Wausau Fire Dept. has new tool for faster response


The Wausau Fire Department has a new tool to help save lives. It's a sensor that turns traffic lights green as emergency crews head to scenes.

Firefighters told Newsline 9 when they're heading to an emergency, every minute counts.

"If there's people trapped inside, getting there two minutes sooner means getting someone out of the structure two minutes sooner," Wausau Battalion Chief Paul Czarapata said.

That's where the new traffic sensor comes in. It's called an Opticom system. The device sits on the dash of emergency vehicles in the fire department. Then, it sends signals to traffic lights on major Wausau streets, including Bridge and Stewart.

"You'll be able to see as we go through downtown, that it works fairly well," Czarapata said.

"Time is really important. That's one of the things that gives us an advantage of being staffed around the clock. Our response time, on average gets us to your front door in 3-4 minutes," Czarapata said.

Firefighters say those minutes can often be the difference between life and death.

Wausau Public Works leaders say the system cost more than $150,000. They say the money came from the city's budget. So far, firefighters say they're happy with the product.

"Makes the intersections open and allows them to flow through the traffic, so it's working as it's intended," Czarapata said.

Fire officials say the Opticom system is already installed in three fire trucks and several ambulances. They say it will help them shave precious minutes on their way to help people.

Wausau officials plan to install more sensors in city traffic lights, focusing on major intersections.


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