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Ladysmith firefighters can reach new heights with aerial truck

Department shows off new ladder truck
Brooklyn Hotte, 11, gets a ‘test drive’ of Ladysmith Fire Rescue’s new aerial platform fire truck, accompanied by firefighter Wayne Johnston, at the department’s open house this past Sunday, March 12. (Duck Paterson photo)


The Sutphen SPH100 mid-mount aerial platform truck was delivered to the town in November and is now being used by firefighters during weekly training.

“It’s ready, and so are we, to take it into action,” said fire chief Chris Geiger.

The new truck replaces the 1997 Superior ladder truck which Ladysmith recently sold to the Cowichan Valley Regional District, which will be placing it in the hands of the North Oyster Volunteer Fire Department.

The open house at the hall on Sunday, March 12, attracted visitors of all ages who had the chance to meet the fire crews and really put their hands on the equipment. It’s estimated that almost 100 community members enjoyed the time and the opportunity to talk with the members. The new aerial truck was also out on display and firefighter Wayne Johnston was giving demonstrations of the ability of the machine.

The town spent $2.1 million on the truck and related equipment. According to Geiger, the town saved thousands of dollars by purchasing the truck when it did.

“The truck was on the assembly line already, and once finished the company was going to use it as a sales model along the U.S. east coast, and once that was done they would deliver it out to us,” he said. “If we didn’t take advantage of this, we would have had to wait 18 months or even longer and we would not have had the thousands knocked off as well.”

During the open house, members of the public were given an opportunity to take a ‘ride’ in the platform, secured by safety harnesses. One of the first to go up was 11-year-old Brooklyn Hotte. “It was fun. I could see all the way to the mountains,” she said. “It wasn’t scary at all.”

Training on the new truck consists of members gaining competency with three aspects of the equipment. Anyone driving the rig must have a valid Class 3 licence, they need to have hands-on knowledge of the operation of the ladder, and finally, they have to know all the aspects of the pump and how it fits into the operation of the truck.

The platform and ladder can be operated from the platform as well as the deck of the truck, but for safety reasons, the chief says that if there is anyone on the platform, there has to be a person at the controls on the deck as well. The ladder can be rotated almost 360 degrees; as well, the platform can be accessed from the ground. It is rated for 1,000 pounds ‘dry’ and 500 pounds when operating the water canon and it can also be used as a rescue hoist with its 800-pound lifting capabilities. Geiger said the truck will not operate unless there are a minimum of three qualified personnel on board.

For its firefighting capabilities the 100-foot platform has two 4,700-litres-per-minute pumps and the platform-mounted cannon can handle 7,500 litres per minute of water.

“We can run the ladder and platform fully extended in winds up to [60 kilometres per hour] and we can also extend it out horizontally full length,” Johnston said. “That gives us greater potential for rescue operations and getting water in difficult situations where it would be way more dangerous for firefighters on foot.”

Geiger said there are “huge” advantages of being able to fight fire from above.

“We can get further back, from above, and the guys can also get up higher, without using dangerous ladders,” the chief said. “We can tackle a fire straight on, where it can be seen, instead of just shooting water up in the air … Even if the fire is too far advanced it still gives us a bigger advantage in protecting the surrounding properties and structures.”

The fire department has 24 members at present and is looking for people who might be interested in getting involved. For more information, call Ladysmith Fire Rescue’s non-emergency number 250-245-6436.

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The view from atop the platform of Ladysmith Fire Rescue’s new ladder truck. (Duck Paterson photo)

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