Colorado Fire Department Replaces Decades-Old Ladder Truck

This month, Greeley firefighters welcomed two new vehicles to the fleet, both a ladder truck and an engine.
Greeley Fire Department photo, Facebook)

A new ladder truck and a new engine in Greeley

Trevor Reid, Greeley Tribune, Colo.

(MCT)

Mar. 12–The Greeley Fire Department runs about 15,000 calls each year, responding to everything from crashes and medical calls to reports of smoke and, of course, fires.

On most calls, bystanders can expect to see the department responding with fire engines, the vehicles used to pump water, or ladder trucks, sometimes called “hook-and-ladder trucks.” This month, Greeley firefighters welcomed two new vehicles to the fleet, both a ladder truck and an engine.

In early March, firefighters gathered for a dedication ceremony for the new ladder truck at Station 5, 4701 24th St. in Greeley. The truck, a 2020 Pierce Ascendant model the department purchased for $1.1 million, replaced a ladder truck that has served Greeley area residents for more than 20 years. Battalion Chief Kevin Maloney said the old truck has become too maintenance-intensive and outlived its useful service life for the city.

“I’ve been on calls on that truck where lives have been saved, so that truck has definitely served its purpose to the city,” Maloney said.

The truck, which was put in reserve at Station 5, will likely go to auction, where the city would try to get whatever money they can out of it, Maloney said. Ladder trucks have a life expectancy of about 20 years, making the replacement a rare event. The fire department operates only one other truck in the city, at Station 1 in downtown Greeley.

The ladder on the new truck extends to 107 feet, enough to get to about the top of a 10-story building, according to Maloney. But it’s more likely to be used for access to the tops of two- or three-story houses around the city. Ladder trucks carry various special equipment, including tools to rescue people trapped in vehicles, as well as stabilization tools for building collapses or large vehicle crashes. Maloney said the new truck will be busy, running up to five or even seven calls a day.

The new fire engine, a 2020 pumper from Fort Collins-based SVI Trucks, isn’t likely to be as busy, at least for now. The engine, which had a price tag of about $600,000, will be based out of the new Station 6, which opened in October on 20th Street off U.S. 34. Maloney estimated the lifespan of an engine to be about half that of ladder trucks, serving a useful life for about 10 years instead of 20. Typically, when replacing engines, the department would take the old equipment off the old engine and transfer it to the new engine. Because the engine was an addition to the department and not a replacement, there was an added cost of about $140,000 worth of equipment to add to the truck.

Maloney said the department had been working to take ownership of the truck for about 18-20 months. The process required designing the truck, which Maloney described as “semi-custom,” having it built and finalizing the paperwork to take ownership. Though the basics on the engine are pretty standard, such as the chassis and drivetrain, specifics like equipment compartments, hose beds, internal driver controls and seating for firefighting can be customized to the department’s needs.

The new engine can carry up to 500 gallons of water and pump as much as 1,500 gallons per minute. A unique feature compared to other engines owned by the department is a highly visible water level indicator, so the engineer can see how much water is left in the truck from a distance.

The engine carries at least one paramedic every day and includes space to carry all the necessary equipment for medical services, including medications, a cardiac monitor, pediatric supplies and trauma supplies. The new engine is set up to deliver advanced life support. Maloney said the department was able to save some money by not including a big electrical generator for emergency lighting. Because the lights on the new engine are LEDs, they have a low power draw that can be handled by the truck’s alternator.

“We’ve carried generators on trucks for decades,” Maloney said. “So that was a big cost savings for as, as well as a big space savings.”

Another feature adds a bit of safety to the engine’s operations, with a backup camera, as well as cameras on both side mirrors of the truck. Though a spotter will still help guide the driver, the cameras were not very expensive and help the driver see what are otherwise blind spots.

Maloney said Engine 6 was the final truck in a six-truck contract with SVI Trucks. For the next engine they purchase, they’ll hold a competitive bid process for fire truck manufacturers. Though the department has built a great relationship with SVI over the past 50-60 years, Maloney said, the department will have to consider factors in the bid process including price, quality, service and warranty work.

While the vehicles are new, the department gets as much maintenance work done through the warranties of builders as it can. After warranties expire, a mechanic in the city of Greeley’s Fleet Services is dedicated to keeping the department’s trucks on the road.

Maloney said the department appreciates the city’s support of the department to acquire and maintain such an updated, modern fleet.

“It allows us to be effective and safe doing our job,” Maloney said. “We want to extend our thanks that we are well-funded with our fire trucks, and we have safe, effective vehicles for our guys to operate out of.”

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