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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Reaching new heights

Reaching new heights

From the platform at the top of its 101-foot telescoping ladder, the La Grande Fire  Departmentís new aerial truck looks toylike, though it is actually 46 feet long and weighs 30 tons. The platform raises to a height comparable with the top floor of the Sac Annex. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH - The Observer
From the platform at the top of its 101-foot telescoping ladder, the La Grande Fire Departmentís new aerial truck looks toylike, though it is actually 46 feet long and weighs 30 tons. The platform raises to a height comparable with the top floor of the Sac Annex. BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH - The Observer

Fire department’s new aerial truck can extend its platform to 101 feet — tall enough to reach the top floor windows of Sac Annex 

La Grande Fire Chief Bruce Weimer didn’t come right out and say Monday that his department’s new aerial platform truck is the pride of the fleet, but it’s obvious that’s what it is.

Just last week, the 46-foot long, 30-ton vehicle with its 525-horsepower engine arrived at the La Grande department in all its fire-engine-red splendor. Weimer and some of his coworkers had it out in the parking lot behind the station Monday, showing off its myriad capabilities.

It was easy to tell they’d all fallen in love.

“This is just a blessing for La Grande,” said Captain Corky Gillies. “It’s one of those things you wouldn’t expect to see here.”

Aerial trucks are mainly used to fight fires and rescue people trapped in tall buildings, though they are put to other uses at times.
 La Grande’s old aerial reached the end of its useful life some time ago, when it started flunking annual certification testing done by Underwriters Laboratory.

The old truck sported a 90-foot snorkel aerial platform and articulating boom the City of La Grande bought in 1968. The boom was refurbished and mounted on a new Freightliner chassis in 1995, but as time went by the need for a new model became urgent.

Money, of course, was an issue, but that problem started to go away when the fire department won a $643,600 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters program. The city kicked in a $101,000 match.

The department settled on a truck from General Fire Apparatus in Spokane, Wash., getting a hefty discount on the chassis in the bargain. Weimer said the chassis, built by Spartan for Rosenbaur Fire Apparatus in Lyons, S.D., was a 2010 model Rosenbaur wanted to move out of its inventory. 

Rosenbaur is now building its own chassis, a fact that played to La Grande’s advantage.

“Including the discount, the actual value of the truck would probably be over $800,000,” Weimer said. The new truck’s cost, less money for fire hose and assorted equipment, came in at $718,000.

City of La Grande Firefighter Devin Cornford raises the boom on his departmentís new aerial truck during a demonstration of the truckís capabilities.
City of La Grande Firefighter Devin Cornford raises the boom on his departmentís new aerial truck during a demonstration of the truckís capabilities.
 

The new vehicle has a 101-foot aerial fire apparatus and platform, one tall enough to reach the top-floor windows of the Sac Annex in downtown La Grande. Because the vehicle is equipped with sturdy outriggers, the boom can swing out to the sides and dip downward, a handy feature for rescue operations in rivers.

The vehicle is also equipped with a 1,750-
gallon-per-minute water pump and a 300-gallon water tank. It is also capable of carrying up to 1,000 feet of five-inch-diameter hose. The vehicle uses so-called “smart” technology to help firefighters with safe driving and fire pump and aerial operations.

The fire hose can be connected to hydrants for abundant water supply. Weimer said the pump, which was lacking in the old aerial, is a key feature.

“Aerials are not used that often, but with pumping capability, this vehicle will respond to all reported structure fires. It can function as a second pumper and the aerial can be deployed if it is needed,” Weimer said.

Weimer said the old snorkel aerial apparatus will eventually be dismantled and scrapped, though the department has plans to build a rescue vehicle over the old chassis.

He added that the new aerial isn’t in service yet, because the department is waiting for ordered fire hose, nozzles and assorted equipment to arrive. Still, people may see the truck on the streets in the near future.

“If you do see it, it’s because our firefighters are conducting driver and operator training. Though it’s agile for its size, it’s still a large vehicle that takes some getting used to,” Weimer said.

Getting used to it is something the firefighters look forward to.

“This will be a lot more versatile, and let us get into tighter spots,” said EMT-Firefighter Terry Tams.

 
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