MORRIS – At 100 feet tall, the Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District’s new ladder truck has the ability to save lives and property in a way no other truck on the fleet has before.
“The tower ladder truck was put in service less than a month ago and has already paid for itself in the property it has protected,” Chief Tracey Steffes said.
The ladder, which reaches as high 100 feet in the air, also has the capability to reach forward, sideways and behind the truck at angles a regular truck might not reach. It can even reach below grade as it faces backwards, its front tires no longer touching the ground.
The truck, which comes at a hefty price tag of a little more than $1 million, replaces the old ladder truck which was nearly 20 years old. Morris responds to more than 6,000 calls a year, the district says.
“Every year, the ladder is tested and it’s never had a problem. ... But for the past three or four years, we’ve had to look at whether we would replace it or refurbish it,” Steffes said. “We could sell it now to a station with fewer calls, where it could last them several years, and we could put that money towards the new truck.”
The minimum cost to restore the old ladder truck would have been $575,000 with only a one-year warranty. The fire department also could sell it for $150,000 and put that money toward the new purchase.
Dwight Fire Protection District was able to buy the truck, which Steffes said should give them far more years out of it because of a smaller call volume.
Firefighter Jake Balthius, who demonstrated the use of the truck on Sunday for the Morris Herald-News, said the safety features alone set the truck well beyond the capability of the old truck. He demonstrated how the truck is able to self level itself to prevent the truck from tipping over and causing harm to both personnel on the truck but also those standing near it.
The water cannon attached to the basket at the top of the 100-foot ladder also can be controlled from the base of the ladder, which allows firefighters to get equipment closer than they could with a firefighter stationed on it to combat larger fires.
Steffes said, when most residents think about Morris buildings, they only think about the two high rises, Saratoga Tower and Elliot Manor. But the truck has far more uses than just high rises. It could be used in any major fire, such as an industrial building or a high rise, because it can unload 3,000 gallons of water a minute in comparison to other trucks that put a lot less water a minute than the ladder truck.
The chief said that although the cost to the district may be substantial, the savings to the residents and business are large.
“We are rated with an insurance service, with 1 being the most and 10 being the least impact on the premium,” Steffes said. “We just had our rating done and we went from a four to a three in town and from an eight to a five in rural areas. The ladder truck has a lot to do with that.”
The tower ladder truck is being housed at station 1 because of its size. It also houses ground ladders and other supplies needed on calls.