Training with new ladder truck is on-going
GRAFTON – For the past two and a half months, the Grafton Volunteer Fire Department has been training on a new ladder truck they purchased from Brindlee Mountain Fire Apparatus based in Union Grove, Ala.
Specifically, the latest addition to the department is a 2003 Pierce Dash 85-foot platform truck. It replaces the obsolete 1966 Ford snorkel truck that the department has had in service for the past 46 years.
According to GVFD Fire Chief Ken Popiel, the old truck had to be replaced because it was out of date and couldn’t be re-certified.
The truck arrived in Grafton on July 17. Popiel said fire department staff has been training on the new truck approximately two times a week.
GVFD has been saving since 2004 to put a down payment on the ladder truck. New, the ladder truck would cost over $800,000. GFVD was able to purchase the 2003 truck for less than half that amount. It will take about five years until the truck is paid for. The fire department gets an appropriation from the City of Grafton for its operating budget. Other equipment is paid for by fundraising efforts like the smoker held each April at the Centennial Center.
The new platform truck is 44-feet-five inches in length overall and is 11-feet, 8 inches tall. The gross vehicle weight is 73,500 pounds and the truck has a wheelbase of 245.5 inches.
The truck is equipped with what is called “crab” steering as the back tires pivot with the front tires.
“If you’re turning left, the front tires will turn left and the back tires will turn right and it makes the rear end follow the front end, instead of cutting off the corners,” former GVFD assistant fire chief Rick Beyer said.
Once at the scene of the fire, the truck can be switched to “fire-ground” steering where all tires can turn in the same direction, for example, to get closer or back away from a building.
The ladder pivots on a turntable located at the rear of the truck and can move a complete 360 degrees. The truck is stabilized by four outriggers, two on each side of the truck. Once deployed, the outriggers can automatically level the truck. The new truck is equipped with several sophisticated sensors to ensure safe operation. For example, if the truck is not level, the ladder will not deploy.
The truck’s ladder can extend up to 85 feet in any direction and can move farther away from the truck horizontally than the old snorkel truck. Water for use in the bucket is transported through a metal tube that telescopes with the ladder. The tube needs to be drained before retracting. When the ladder is retracted after use it can’t be set back into place for storage unless it’s perfectly aligned.
The bucket is controlled by an operator near the turntable at the base of the truck. The bucket can also be maneuvered by the operator in the bucket. In the event the occupants in the bucket are injured or otherwise incapacitated, the operator on the truck can bring them down to safety. There is also a communications link between the operator on the truck and the bucket.
“If there’s somebody in the bucket, there’s somebody at the base of the truck,” Beyer said.
The large nozzle on the bucket called a monitor, can shoot a stream of water at a rate of 1,000 gallons per minute and can a exceed a distance of 100 feet depending on conditions. The monitor nozzle can also be operated from below, with the bucket unoccupied.
There is also a nozzle positioned under the bucket that can shoot a stream of water, or fire curtain, to keep it cool in extreme heat situations.
Other specifications of the truck include a Detroit 60 series 500 horsepower diesel engine, a 370 gallon booster tank for water, a 30 gallon foam cell and a Harrison 10,000 watt MAS Hydraulic PTO generator.
The truck is equipped with five different digital readout screens to identify the status of the ladder and the bucket and well as the flow of water and status of the pump. The truck is equipped with a 1,500 gallon-per-minute pump.
All of these “bells and whistles” translate into a safer and more efficient firefighting tool. The new truck has been on the scene of one fire so far.
According to Popiel, the new truck is a welcome addition to the GVFD fleet and the fire department’s staff has been training on the vehicle every chance it gets.
“It’s definitely an upgrade,” Popiel said. “This truck will also allow us to reach some of the taller structures in town.”
Those structures include buildings like Birchwood Estates, New Horizons, Sunset Hall, Hancock Place and Villa DeRemer Estates on the Life Skills and Transition Center campus and some downtown second floor apartments which have only one exit. The new truck can also reach the roof of those buildings.
Popiel said at first the operation of the new truck with all its features was a little intimidating, but he and other GVFD staff have been getting more and more comfortable with the unit each time they train on it.