The Ladder issue continues in Roanoke

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Like many things in the fire service, you cannot please everyone. Many issues are debated in the firehouse and differing opinions are offered. However, most often the guys/gals in the firehouse are not the decision makers. The decision makers have ideals set forth by budget, higher up management, and governing standards. The firefighters mostly want the best understandable because it makes their job easier, more efficient, and their lives may depend on it. After all, if a deficient piece of equipment is purchased it will not likely effect someone sitting behind a desk. That same piece of equipment may effect a firefighters ability to operate on the fire ground.

Back in 1997/1998 a decision was made to purchase two 75′ quints to replace other trucks in the fleet. The trucks were designed with one rear axle, which is not a popular fire service ideal. The need for two rear axles is due to all of the gear that a ladder truck has to carry. The ladders were shortened from the 95′-100′ average to 75′ in order to have the weight low enough to place the truck on a single axle. The trucks are smaller than other ladder trucks, have pumps, a tank, and hose which take up a considerable amount of room while still having to carry all of a ladders equipment.

A couple of years ago, Ladder 2 was replaced. The old ladder was a 121′ ladder truck, the new one is a 95′ platform – a first for Roanoke. The 121′ was placed in reserve. To picture the reserve ladder is looks like a crane painted red. It is huge.

Now take into mind all the things that firefighters have been told.

  1. We need a new station to fit state of the art equipment.
  2. Fitting state of the art equipment in the old station 1 is like putting a 36″ waist in 34″ pants.
  3. When the reserve ladder do a 3 point turn just to get into the new bay at the new station that was designed to fit state of the art equipment we were then told that tight is good.
  4. The state of the art equipment that was reported to not fit in the old station will also not fit in other stations.
So the saga continues. The maintenance garage put a new suspension on the reserve ladder. They did not realize that the new suspension actually raised the overall height of the ladder truck by a couple of inches. Normally, this would not be a problem, but Station 2 was altered to fit the reserve truck when it was new and it had 1 1/2″ room between the top of the truck and the ceiling. So imagine the look on the firefighters faces when they wedged the reserve ladder truck into the bay at station 2 after the new suspension was put on. They reportedly had to let the air out of the tires to get the truck out of the station.

So what are we left with. Our reserve ladder cannot fit in station 2, nor can it be used to replace ladder 7 because ladder 7 is run as a quint now. So whenever Ladder 2, 7, or 13 is out of service the guys at 13 have to play musical chairs with the ladder trucks because that is the truck they need.

There is an immediate need for purchase of a new ladder truck. I understand that the Chief has already put in for a new one. The Chiefs plan on replacing trucks seems to be working quite well so far. It is too bad that we are still suffering the consequences of bad decisions in the past. The same decisions that firefighters stood against and the decision makers made anyways.

Unfortunately, it takes about 10 months to build a ladder truck.

This is only one example of things the Fire-EMS Department needs. The list is long.

I know how tight money is in the City. We have shelled out millions of dollars to the Art Museum and for building condos downtown.

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