"Ladder truck approvedThe apparatus, to be delivered next year, will be named for Arnie Jackson."
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:44 PM
"The Bainbridge Island Fire Department will purchase a state-of-the art aerial truck, which firefighters say is needed to serve a growing island.The price of the vehicle - a prototype of which was tested extenstively by the department last month - is estimated at $767,000, according to Bainbridge Fire Department Executive Director Ken Guy.This rig has specific features that others don't have, Guy said. for a department our size operated mostly by volunteers, we need a truck you can't get into trouble with.The fire district board of commissioners gave Guy approval to negotiate and sign a purchase contract at its meeting last week. It will take about a year to build and deliver the vehicle, Guy said, and it should be in service on the island in late April 2002.The rig combines German technology and American manufacture. The 100-foot aerial ladder and its attachments and controls are made by Metz, a German company. The truck itself is made by General Safety Equipment of Wyoming, Minnesota.The truck, which will be housed at the main fire station on Madison Avenue, will be sent out on commercial alarms and whenever else it might be needed. Guy estimated it will be used on an average of every three days.According to Arnie Jackson, a veteran Bainbridge firefighter whose research led to the truck's purchase, the truck offers new dimensions in speed and versatility.Right now, the longest ladder we have is 50 feet, he said. It takes half a dozen men to set up, and probably the fastest they could do it is eight to 10 minutes.With the truck, one man can fully extend that ladder to 100 feet in less than one minute.Although no island structure is close to 100 feet tall, Jackson said the ladder will get plenty of use.You can't usually get the truck right next to the structure, he said. If you have to park 30 feet away, you end up needing a longer ladder than you might think to get on top of it.As Jackson and Guy said, fire suppression requires putting a firefighter on top of the structure as soon as possible to punch a hole in the roof. The resulting chimney effect makes the fire much easier to fight.Some of the new homes on the island are getting up to four stories, with the attics, Jackson said. So we will use this.But going up isn't all the ladder can do. The apparatus, when extended, can also be pointed in a downward direction. That feature, when combined with with a significant lifting capacity, can let the ladder operate something like a crane.If we have a car off the road in a ditch, we can use the ladder to get down to it, stabilize the car, then lift the victim out, Jackson said.That versatility apparently is unique to the Metz ladder console, as are certain safety features. An automatic sensor will stop the ladder if the combination of the weight and the angle outward from the support point threaten to tip the rig over. And if the ladder runs into a building, a sensor will stop it before it does damage to either the building or the apparatus itself.The importance of those features prompted Guy to ask for a suspension of the city's competitive-bid requirements.We carefully documented that the features were not available elsewhere, so we were able to negotiate only with this manufacturer, he said. The truck is in the department's capital budget; bonds will be sold by a statewide agency that finances special-district improvements, and the district will repay those over a five-year period.This will come out of our existing tax levy. Nothing new will be required, Guy said.The truck has already been named.For all the work he did on this, we've decided to name the truck the Arnold Jackson, Guy said. It will be right there on the side, in big gold letters. "