A lollipop man moved children into the path of an on-call fire engine ‘several times’ before being removed from the crossing by firefighters, it has been claimed.
Luton Borough Council has launched an investigation into allegations that a crossing guard posted outside William Austin Junior School ignored a fire engine’s sirens and blocked its progress by repeatedly ushering children and parents across the road.
At the time the fire crew was on its way to a tree fire on St Ethelbert Avenue– just a few doors down from the crossing.
The crossing guard has been suspended while the probe is carried out.
Eyewitness Jacqui Brittain, who saw the incident from her bedroom window, told the Luton News that the lollipop man had to be forcibly moved from the road by firefighters.
Mrs Brittain, 60, said: “He started crossing children when the engine was only a few yards away, I thought ‘get out of the road’.
“It came to a halt at the crossing as he stood there waiting, then he went back to the pavement and did it again.
“He just carried on until five or six firefighters got out to speak to him, they surrounded him.
“I bet they couldn’t believe their eyes when he went out again, it could have been someone burning to death.”
The council said it has requested CCTV footage from the fire engine “to ascertain exactly what happened” during the incident, which occured last Monday (April 13) at 3.30pm.
A spokesperson added: “It is vital that emergency services are able to reach their destinations quickly and freely, and we have begun an immediate investigation in line with council procedures.”
Before the fire engine reached the crossing its progress had already been slowed by vehicles parked in ‘no parking’ zones and an ice cream van waiting for schoolchildren.
A Beds Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said that during the confusion with the crossing guard a firefighter was forced to move the remaining pedestrians out of the road himself, before assisting other vehicle drivers to clear a path for the engine.
Trevor Gradwell-Smith, Luton Community Fire Station commander, said: “Effectively tackling fires, road traffic collisions and other incidents depends on our firefighters arriving at the scene as quickly as possible.
“Our drivers are trained to take care and protect the public when travelling to incidents but we do hope the public support us by clearing a path for our vehicles.”
Mrs Brittain, who herself worked as a crossing guard for 20 years, told the Luton News of her shock at the incident.
She said: “One of the first things they said to me during training was that if you hear sirens you should keep the kids on pavement and wait.
“Usually what happens is that one engine will go through and another will follow soon after.
“Seconds count with a fire, it was really dangerous.
“My husband also pointed out to me that it doesn’t give a good example to the kids as it tells them that they can go in front of fire engines which have their lights flashing.”
It is believed that the tree caught fire from a bonfire outside a home on St Ethelbert Avenue.
When they were able to make their way to the home firefighters extinguished the blaze using a hose.
William Austin headteacher Joanne Adams declined to comment on the incident when contacted by the Luton News.