Capital City Fire/Rescue engineer Peter Flynn and firefighter Connor Hoyt stand at the bottom of the department’s new truck ladder on Thursday, Oct. 6 during training operations at the Glacier Fire Station. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Capital City Fire/Rescue engineer Peter Flynn and firefighter Connor Hoyt stand at the bottom of the department’s new truck ladder on Thursday, Oct. 6 during training operations at the Glacier Fire Station. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)

Sooner or ladder CCFR’s new truck will be in service

Firefighters say extended reach means increased safety.

There’s never a good time to have concerns about your safety, but being on unsure footing while responding to a multi-story fire might be among the worst times for such worries.

A new fire truck, which Capital City Fire/ Rescue will be ready for calls in about a month, is intended to minimize risk and maximize safety for the public and firefighters for decades to come.

“Our department understands how important this piece of equipment is and they also understand how this is an investment in our community,” said CCFR assistant chief Travis Mead “When something like this is purchased, it is something that they’re not taking lightly.”

On Thursday, CCFR ran the first series of training on the newly acquired vehicle. CCFR Fire Chief Richard Etheridge said that while the vehicle cost might sound high at just under $1.15 million it’s hard to put a price on firefighter safety, as well as the safety of those being rescued, which Etheridge said, to him, is the most important aspect.

“I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the platform trucks until we had our fire at the Gastineau Apartments and watching firefighters try to get on and off ladders into windows and it was super precarious and the firefighters were tired,” Etheridge said. “There was such a high risk of them falling, but with a tool like this, they can butt it right up to the base of a window and they can just open the door and step in and working off roofs they can do the same thing, they can work right off the tip of the platform, so for me, it’s 100% about safety and making sure that we aren’t having people fall and get hurt.”

Mead echoed Chief Etheridge’s remarks and said that not only is the new truck an investment that will stay within Juneau for many years to come, the pride he feels in knowing the department is properly equipped to protect the community is the same pride he feels for being a part of it, as well.

“We take pride in living in Juneau and there’s one thing that I’m really impressed by with Juneau is how the city handles themselves in the time of an emergency,” Mead said. “For instance, just with the recent landslide, it was really cool to work for a community that leans forward and isn’t afraid to go out of their way for their community members. That makes me proud to be a part of Juneau. I have that same approach when it comes to buying equipment, if it’s something that we’re going to own for between 20 and 30 years, yes, it’s an expensive purchase but it’s also an investment in the safety of our community.”

According to Mead, the vehicle is a rear-mounted platform with a ladder that extends 110 feet from the ground to the basket. Mead added that the lift rams are located in the rear of the vehicle, which for 110 feet provides a base section with three fly sections that allow the ladder to extend, much like that of a standard extension ladder. This added extension ability is what will allow for more secure work stability at greater heights.

“This provides such a higher level of safety when we’re doing anything at height,” Mead said. “I personally have performed, in my 22 years with this department, I’ve rescued animals out of trees many times over the years. Or if I’m going to work off the tip of a ladder and I need to now maybe operate a chainsaw or ventilate a hole in a roof, by using this it not only allows for the person to safely do the work needed but it also allows for someone else to be standing nearby to assist. This truck is honestly just an industry standard at this point to be able to do work at height.”

The truck is brand new and was built over the last year, Mead said. Final inspections were performed in July in Wisconsin, and it arrived on the ferry in Juneau on Sept. 13. Since then, Mead said, it has been parked at the Glacier Fire Station until a service team was able to arrive for training. Mead said that currently the truck is not loaded up with standard equipment such as chainsaws, ventilation fans, hoses, and hand tools. That coupled with the time it will take to properly train staff means the truck still has some time before being fully in service.

“At this point the vehicle doesn’t have all of the equipment on it, as we start to get operators that have checked off and are prepared to start driving it, we can then start to do more in-house training, not just driving it but operating it out at the training center,” Mead said. “So I don’t anticipate this vehicle to be in service for at least another month. We’re not going to rush it, we’re going to do it right.”

Mead said the only difference between this truck and fire engines in addition to the aerial and ladder capability is the fact that it carries less water. Mead said this particular vehicle is more useful in defensive operations or rescues, therefore water isn’t as much of a priority on a ladder truck as it would be on an engine. The basket can hold 750 pounds, which Mead said is especially an advantage when needing to do rescues from higher points.

“It’s the ability to access and perform rescue,” Mead said. “750 pounds really gets me three people that I can put in that ladder, so think about that, if I’m dealing with a high rise situation downtown especially, it might be that I might have multiple people hanging out of windows, so that 750 in the tip at one time, I could start evacuating people down the stairway if need be or if I’m having to rotate and actually perform rescue picks out of each window access, it allows for me to do a little more in a situation where I needed to perform multiple rescues in a very timely manner.”

Etheridge said that another advantage to procuring the vehicle has to do with the department’s rating with the insurance service rating office. According to Etheridge, the ISO sets the requirements and standards that fire departments are expected to meet and if the standards fall below expectations, that impacts the department community wide.

“They (ISO) rate their insurance on a scale of one to 10, one being the best rating you can have and ten being no fire protection at all,” Etheridge said. “Juneau is currently an ISO-rated three and one of their requirements is anywhere that you have more than five buildings, three or more stories in height, they require to have a fire truck within a five mile radius of that area. So, if we were to do away with ladder trucks, then it would cause negative impacts to our insurance rating. I haven’t done a lot of research to see what that negative impact would be but we would definitely lose a lot of points for not having adequate truck response here in town.”

Etheridge added that since Juneau is a relatively small department in an isolated community, investing in the proper equipment is crucial for public safety. Etheridge furthermore said that the longevity of investments into new equipment is not overlooked nor is the support received from the community.

“We’re a small department and we don’t have mutual aide that’s readily available whereas if you were like in the Fairbanks area there’s nine departments in that area that can come help out in a structure fire, but here in Juneau we’re it, so we have to have great tools for the job and people trained to use those tools,” Etheridge said. “We appreciate the public support in purchasing these apparatus, these are 20 to 30 year investments and they work at the career stations and then they move down to the slower stations so that we can extend the life out of them. So we do get our money’s worth out of the apparatus that we purchase and we take great care of them and they’re an extremely valuable tool that we’re very pertinent to have the community support to make sure that we’re equipped like that.”

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com.

Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire 
CCFR’s new ladder truck is parked at the Glacier Fire Station on Thursday, Oct. 6 during training operations. The truck arrived in Juneau on Sept. 13 and is expected to be in service by November once all operators have completed training and all necessary equipment has been loaded onto the vehicle.

Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire CCFR’s new ladder truck is parked at the Glacier Fire Station on Thursday, Oct. 6 during training operations. The truck arrived in Juneau on Sept. 13 and is expected to be in service by November once all operators have completed training and all necessary equipment has been loaded onto the vehicle.

Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire 
This photo shows the control panel from inside the ladder’s basket. CCFR’s new truck ladder has an extension of 110 feet and the basket can hold up to 750 pounds. The department has said that the new vehicle puts them at an advantage for more high rise situations whereas their current fire engines are better suited for other emergencies.

Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire This photo shows the control panel from inside the ladder’s basket. CCFR’s new truck ladder has an extension of 110 feet and the basket can hold up to 750 pounds. The department has said that the new vehicle puts them at an advantage for more high rise situations whereas their current fire engines are better suited for other emergencies.

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