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$1.2M Quint Ladder Truck Approved

Local voters unanimously supported the purchase of a new $1.2 million quint ladder truck at Town Meeting Monday night.

The 's request for a new was unanimously approved by the some 600 local residents at Town Meeting Monday night.

Before those gathered within the Performing Arts Center at put it to a vote, Fire Chief Jason Gilliland took to the podium in an effort to explain how a state-of-the-art ladder truck would help local firefighters better-serve town residents.

"This purchase is costly, but in my professional opinion as your fire chief, it is necessary," Gilliland said. "The department's apparatus committee and I have worked for a year researching a draft of the specifications to ensure that taxpayer money will be spent on a quality piece of fire apparatus that will serve this community well for years to come."

What's a quint? 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 $150,000 would go toward training and making sure it pulls into the station with brand new equipment.

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.

At a Finance Committee meeting earlier this year, Gilliland told members that 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.”

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 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 at the Finance Committee meeting. “We wouldn’t be able to reach the top of the new Warwick Building with a 75-foot aerial.”

Gilliland pointed out that when 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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