“It looks like we’re already 100 feet in the air, doesn’t it?” Pell City Fire Chief Patrick Draper asked when the platform ladder reached only half the distance it is capable of reaching.
He pushed the knob up and when the platform stopped at 100 feet in the air, he turned a knob to the left, and the ladder rotated toward Fire Station No. 1
Draper predicts the new platform ladder truck, which arrived in Pell City Wednesday morning, will help save lives and property.
The city has been without a ladder truck since the Avondale Mills plant fire on Valentines Day in 2008.
“Give credit to the mayor and council for seeing a need for this equipment and making it happen,” Draper said.
The 1999 Pierce platform ladder truck cost the city about $499,000.
Draper said it was worth the money, and it was best that the city bought a used ladder truck for half the price of a new one.
“A brand new one costs $1-$1.2 million,” he said. “The truck will be running less than 20 percent of the calls, so with the economy the way it is it makes little sense to pay that much for something you will use for only 20 percent of the calls.”
Draper said most calls the city’s Fire Department responds to are medical emergencies.
He said firefighters will respond with the new platform ladder truck to wrecks, fires and fire alarms, which accounts for about 20 percent of the Fire Department’s calls.
Draper said the Fire Department will train a main operator and two backup operators on each shift to operate the platform ladder truck.
“That will begin here next week,” Draper said. “We’ll have the truck completely in service by June 15. That’s our plan.”
He said most of Pell City’s firefighters are certified in the use of ladder trucks, but it has been so long since firefighters have used one, it best to take the time and make sure operators know exactly how to work the extension ladder platform.
“This is the first platform (ladder truck) the city has ever seen,” Draper said. “The old truck only had a ladder. It makes a huge difference, but it also makes a huge difference in the price.”
He said it’s worth the money to have a ladder truck with a platform.
“This is the only one we have, so it needs to have broad capabilities,” Draper said.
He said the truck could be used for saving lives, such as rescuing people from multi-story structures.
“It could also be used in a defensive fire attack,” Draper said, pointing to the side-by-side businesses on Cogswell Avenue in the old historic downtown district. “It (the ladder truck) could mean the difference in losing one store or the whole block because you can get the water directly above the fire. … People are in better position to direct the fire flow.”
He said the platform could carry up to five firefighters without water up to the tops of roofs, two firefighters with water.
Draper said there is a 2 1/2 –inch hose attachment to the platform, so water could be carried to a certain spot on the roof, like to an air condition unit in the middle of a roof. Or a fire could be fought by a firefighter directly from the platform.
He said there is a water curtain underneath the metal platform to protect anyone on the platform, and the platform has doors that open so people can escape burning buildings to the safety of the platform.
Draper said the used platform ladder truck is covered by a 5-year warranty, up to $30,000 worth of repairs.
He said if repairs exceed more than $3,000, the warranty covers the expense. If repairs cost less than $3,000, it is the city’s responsibility.
The city will not start paying for the truck until next year, and the money the city receives from the 2-mill tax will pay for it, Draper said.
He said the platform ladder truck came complete with a new paint job and an emergency lighting package.
Draper said the Fire Department will display the new truck at Friday’s Block Party.
Contact David Atchison at email@example.com.