Salem looks at new ladder truck

SALEM – City council members witnessed firsthand the difference in capabilities between a new 100-foot tower ladder fire truck and the Salem Fire Department’s 70-foot ladder truck, but they’re still researching ways to finance such a truck.

The price tag for the new Pierce Arrow truck brought to the fire station for show-and-tell by Finley Fire Equipment representatives Tuesday night was $945,000.

City Auditor Betty Brothers wasn’t pulling out the city’s checkbook to write a check, but did say she’s been calling different companies to see what kind of lease-to-buy arrangements are possible for a new 100-foot tower ladder truck.

“We’ve discussed ways of leasing,” she said, regarding talks with Fire Chief Jeff Hughes.

Hughes spoke to members of city council’s Finance Committee in May regarding a leasing program he was told about for fire trucks where the city could possibly pay a down payment and pay so much by the month, quarter or year for a new truck.

He had applied for a grant last year for a new ladder truck, but the application was denied. The department’s current ladder truck is 23 years old and only has a reach of about 70 feet. With repairs starting to become an issue and some of the taller buildings in town, such as the addition to Salem Community Hospital, he said they need a new truck with a longer reach.

Councilman K. Bret Apple, who chairs the Finance Committee, saw the demonstration and said it’s something they’re going to have to look at to see where the money could come from or if it’s even possible. He said it’s in its infancy at this point, very early in the process.

“We’re not going to rush to judgment on it and obligate the city for something it can’t afford,” he said.

When asked why the city doesn’t have a fund to set aside money each year for a fire truck in the future, he said that’s something to consider as they move on, to have some type of equipment fund.

Councilman Rick Drummond, who rode nearly 100 feet in the air in the bucket of the visiting fire truck, said it would be great to have a truck which has capabilities and features the department’s current truck does not have, but it would cost a sizeable amount of money.

Finley Fire Equipment sales representative Gary Fellows and Ohio truck manager Andy VanElzen brought the truck to the fire department a couple weeks ago for firefighters to check it out, then returned so city council could do a side-by-side comparison. Besides the new truck having a longer ladder with a bucket at the end instead of just a stick ladder, VanElzen said the new truck had more stability and more rescue capabilities, including swift water rescue. Besides being able to go higher in the air, the bucket and ladder can also go down below grade by 20 feet for a water rescue or pit rescue.

Fellows said the capabilities of the 2013 truck far exceed what the department has now.

Capt. Scott Mason said the biggest difference he could see was safety. Firefighters can get in the basket and work off of a platform instead of having to climb the ladder and work off of the ladder.

“I think we would all agree we would like to see a platform for safety considerations and for the ability to reach the buildings in town,” he said.

With the current truck, they can’t reach the top of the Smith Center apartment building on Fourth Street or the hospital or some of the other tall buildings. Mason said they would have no problem reaching the top of the hospital, including the new section, with a 100-foot ladder truck.

Other differences included better water pressure and the ability to fit more hoses from the platform. The current truck pumps 1,500 gallons per minute and the truck they saw pumped 2,000 gallons per minute.