Motorists driving through downtown Kenai may notice new warning signs as they approach the intersection of North Willow and Main Street Loop.
"They're not your typical stoplight," said Kenai Assistant Fire Chief Scott Walden.
The goal of the new signs, placed between 60 and 100 feet from the intersection in each direction, is to create a greater awareness of fire vehicles in emergencies. The fire station is located at that corner.
The signs were installed Sunday, Walden said, but they will not be 100 percent operational for two weeks.
When in use, lights on the signs will begin to flash when the department vehicles must be dispatched to a fire or accident scene. The signs, manually controlled by the dispatcher, will be turned on in the event of all emergencies, creating a clear area to the intersection for response vehicles.
When the emergency vehicles pass through the intersection, the dispatcher will turn the lights off. When responding in the other direction, Walden said, the lights still will come on, but they will be shut off immediately.
The lights also will help in responding to airport calls.
Per Federal Aviation Admini-stration regulations, airport crash trucks must report to the Kenai Municipal Airport 15 minutes before larger commuter aircraft arrive. The trucks must stay during landing and are not to leave until 15 minutes after the plane departs. This is a typical practice for arrivals of de Havilland Dash 8s and the Convair aircraft that Era Aviation flies.
In the case of an airport emergency, the department must respond in three minutes.
Walden said lately, due to heavy traffic at the intersection, trucks have had a problem achieving a three-minute response time.
He hopes the new lights will help with that problem.
"(The lights) will give us better access through the intersection," he said.
Within the next few weeks, groundbreaking will begin on a small fire station and maintenance shop at the airport. The on-site station will alleviate the need for trucks to travel through traffic to get to the airport because a firefighter will be stationed there.
But, the signs are a permanent city fixture, Walden said.
He said he hopes the signs will cut down on the near misses that often occur in that area.
He said he also hopes the large signs will make drivers more attentive about the upcoming intersection and the need to stop.
"When they see that sign, maybe they will look for the stop sign," Walden said.
The system cost about $6,000, but he said he believes it is a reasonable cost for the safety it will provide.
"The light is far less inconvenient for the public than a stop light would be," he said.
Walden said he hopes the public will be patient when the lights come on and realize it is a safety feature.
"We just don't want anyone hurt in this intersection," he said.
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