Northwood, which had earmarked funds for two years to buy a new $700,000 ladder truck at Fire Station No. 1, received the massive, shiny red fire engine last month.
The truck, which has a ladder that spans over 100 feet, replaces its 1978 “tele-squirt” truck, which had a 50-foot ladder, according to Mayor Mark Stoner.
“The tele-squirt was nothing like this one. When I first saw it, I thought we had bought a bus. It’s huge,” said Stoner.
“It’s a very big truck,” said Fire Chief Tim Romstadt.
The new truck can seat six firefighters in the cab, compared to only two on the tele-squirt. “And the bucket has the capability of holding anywhere from two to four people, depending on their size and weight,” said Romstadt.
Firefighters for three, eight-hour days will learn how to drive the more technologically advanced vehicle, he said.
“We’ll stagger the training because some of our people work days, some work nights,” he said. “We have quite a few people who are competent at driving it right now. Our goal is to get the majority of the firefighters comfortable and competent at driving the truck. It drives very nice for a huge truck. It turns easy, and gets up and goes. It’s not a speed demon. Overall, it’s easy to handle.”
The truck has been on one call since it was purchased, said Romstadt.
“It’s not totally set up yet. We’re still tweaking it and putting equipment on it slowly but surely. It will end up being the main extrication vehicle for Northwood. It will have all extrication equipment needed for any injury accident, such as the Jaws of Life, air bags, and stabilization equipment.”
The ladder, which is 102 feet long, improves safety, said Romstadt.
“It is somewhat of a misconception that a ladder truck is for tall buildlings, and in one respect it is,” said Romstadt. “But you also have to take into consideration that you can only get so close to a tall building that’s on fire because if that building collapses, you have to be a good 40-50 feet away from a 40-50 foot tall building.”
“Fire fighters can set up the ladder further away from the building and extend it out to get to a fire so it’s actually safer for them,” said Stoner. “It’s nice.”
The ladder truck typically is used as a last resort, said Romstadt.
“If you have to spray water off a ladder truck, you’re in a defensive mode. You don’t have firefighters inside operating. You’ve gone through all your options and you can’t do anything. Basically, you’re seeing if you can just put it out with massive amounts of water. Once you have to use that to spray water down, you’re pretty much admitting defeat that you were not able to put the fire out in the interior. We’re trying to keep it from spreading to another building, to another house, or save half the house or building.”
In 2007, a new ladder truck had topped Romstadt’s list of $1.4 million in fire department equipment that needed replacement, including a 1998 ambulance, a 1978 GMC Pierce pickup style mini-pumper, and a 1983 fire truck, a backup engine for the city. The city rejected placing a levy on the ballot, and raising the 1.5 percent city income tax, to pay for it.
The city also shot down the idea of taking out a three year loan because it would have cost $68,000 in interest. Instead, the city set aside $350,000 each of the last two years to pay for the truck, which was recommended by Romstadt and Administrator Pat Bacon.
“This year, we had the money there, and it was ready to go,” said Stoner.
Romstadt said the city sold the tele-squirt a couple of years ago to someone in Texas, who takes them to Vietnam. “They want equipment that doesn’t have computers over there because they can’t repair them,” said Romstadt.
The city has two fire stations, and 47 firefighters.