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Wreck, semi truck fire keep River Falls officers busy; 3rd vehicle nearly strikes firefighter, driver charged for drugs

Three almost simultaneous events made for a busy afternoon Wednesday in River Falls.

It all started with a two-vehicle accident.

Around 5:40 p.m., River Falls Police and Fire Department were dispatched to the intersection of U.S. Highway 84 and Ala. Highway 55 for a two vehicle motor incident that caused slight road blockage.

River Falls Fire sent a brush truck and Engine 1 to respond to the call.

At the scene, Engine 1 was alerted of a semi truck that was heading towards River Falls with what appeared to be fire from underneath the truck, firefighters said.

“We left the scene of the accident and followed the truck,” Brandon Holland, president of the Covington County Fire Association and secretary of the River Falls Fire Department, said.

The truck driver hadn’t noticed the fire until it caused his tires to blow-out.

The semi couldn’t move entirely off the road, Holland said.

“Because of how loaded down his truck was, he couldn’t get off the road all the way, so we were able to block off the right lane and initiate fire attack on the cab of the semi,” he said.

The fire hadn’t spread to the cargo that the semi truck was carrying and it was a good thing, firefighters said.

“The semi was hauling lightered stumps and those are pretty flammable,” Holland said.

The River Falls Fire Department requested mutual aid from the Andalusia Fire Department and the Andalusia Police Department, due to the wreck down the road also needing police officers on scene.

While on the scene of the fire, a firefighter with the River Falls Fire Department who was assisting with traffic control was almost struck by a vehicle traveling too fast.

The vehicle struck the firefighter’s flashlight and knocked it from his hands.

River Falls police officer Michael Bishop stopped the vehicle down the highway from the scene. Officer Bishop obtained probable cause to search the vehicle and located an amount of Xanax inside, without prescription.

The driver of the vehicle was identified as Kendra Michelle Clark, 32, of Evergreen. Clark was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, and held on a $13,000 bond.

River Falls Police Chief Cody Warren wants to remind the public of the Move Over Act.

The Move Over Act states that when approaching an emergency vehicle, drivers should vacate the lane closest to the emergency vehicle if possible and slow to at least 15 miles below the posted speed limit.

“This time of the year the traffic will increase significantly in River Falls and in Covington County due to warmer weather and beach traffic,” Warren said. “Please use caution when traveling and let’s keep this safe and enjoyable for everyone.

“We will have extra patrols out this month in order to assist with the high traffic volume.”

Holland said that failure to reduce speed and not allow room while navigating around an accident can be deadly.

“Vehicles don’t merge over to give room for accidents. There have been numerous firefighter, police officer, emergency worker and tow-truck driver fatalities each year due to people not paying attention,” Holland said.

“These are common on scene when working in or near roadways.”

The Covington County Fire Association urges drivers to pay attention, slow down, move over and be prepared to stop when approaching emergency vehicles, tow trucks and utility crews that are working in or near a roadway.