Fire Chief Jason Gilliland appeared before the Finance Committee Wednesday night and explained how a new $1.2 million quint ladder truck would help the fire department better-serve the residents of Marblehead.
The name "quint" means five, and refers to the five functions that a quint provides: pump, water tank, fire hose, aerial ladder and ground ladders.
The proposed apparatus, which would be equipped with a 100-foot aerial ladder, would cost $1.1 million and the additional $100,000 would go toward making sure it pulls into the station with brand new equipment.
“In the past, when a new piece of equipment came through the door we would take the old equipment off one of the trucks and put it on it,” Gilliland said. “You don’t want to be putting old equipment on a new piece of apparatus.”
Gilliland told committee members that the town’s current ladder truck, which is a 1997 quint, is nearing the end of its life expectancy and would last a lot longer if it were moved down to reserve status.
“That ladder is more than 15 years old, it’s reaching the end of its life expectancy and I’d like to take that out of first-line service and put it into reserve status so we can get another fix or six years or maybe even more out of it,” Gilliland said. “Maintenance on the vehicle, as you’re all well aware, isn’t cheap.”
Over the last three years, Gilliland said the fire department has been spending an average of $11,430 a year to keep the ladder on the road.
“Keep in mind that the ladder is used 19.5 to 20 percent of the time on overall calls. If it was moved down to our third piece it would only be going out of the station 3 or 4 percent of the time, which would dramatically lessen the wear and tear on it and control maintenance costs,” Gilliland said.
So how many trips is 19.5 percent of the time?
“That comes to some 447 calls a year, not including training exercises and things like that,” Gilliland said. “That may not sound like a lot, but that ladder is nothing more than a big crane, it’s very heavy and it takes a lot of torsion on it and 15 years of New England weather hasn’t helped.”
If his request for the new quint ladder is approved at Town Meeting in May, Gilliland’s plan is to trade in Engine 3 "while it still has some trade-in value" and move Ladder 1 into reserve status.
“The ladder we have is still in good shape but it doesn’t warrant being a first-line piece of apparatus anymore," Gilliland said. "It’s tired and it needs to be moved down to a second-line piece of equipment."
The Fire Department currently has four pieces of apparatus:
Engine 1: 2006 Pierce Pump (first-line)
Engine 2: 1998 Seagrave Pumper (first-line)
Ladder 1: 1997 Quint Ladder with 75-foot aerial (first-line)
Engine 3: 1987 Mack Pumper (reserve)
“Engine 3 is used if one of the other pieces goes down or we have a mutual aid call where one of our trucks goes out of town to Salem or Swampscott then it gets put into service - so it doesn’t see a lot of motion,” Gilliland said.
The addition of a ladder truck with a 100-foot aerial to the department would ensure that local firefighters would have the apparatus they'd need to battle a fire in a set-back home or in one of Marblehead's taller buildings, Gilliland said.
“Times change here in Marblehead, the set-backs are farther back and we can’t reach some of them with a 75-foot aerial,” Gilliland said. “We wouldn’t be able to reach the top of the new Warwick Building with a 75-foot aerial.”
Gilliland pointed out that when Tony’s Pizza burned in 2003, the department’s ladder truck was unable to provide the same support that an apparatus with a 100-foot aerial would have because it had to keep back from the "collapse zone" around the building.
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