|On one of its first calls, a Metz Rosenbauer 102-foot aerial with envelope control operated by the Carrabassett Valley (Maine) Fire Department lifts an overturned Jeep leaking fuel and oil from a brook. (Rosenbauer Photo)|
Courtney Knapp, the chief of the Carrabassett Valley Fire Department in a mountain resort area in west-central Maine, has had a 102-foot Metz Rosenbauer aerial with a programmable logic control (PLC) operating system for three years.
“Everything is computer managed,” he said. “The vehicle cannot be operated in an unsafe manner, whereas with our previous aerial, you could do just about anything you wanted.”
He said officials in his department devoted a significant amount of time to researching aerials and developing specifications that led to the purchase.
“Unfortunately, most of the American manufacturers want to build these huge pieces of equipment that just don’t work in our community,” he said. “The Metz really fit in quite well.”
One of its first calls was for a one-car rollover accident, and the aerial was used as a crane.
“We had a young teenager driving too fast on a dirt road, and he put his Jeep Grand Cherokee upside-down in a brook, Knapp recalled. “So we chose to use the lifting capacity of the Metz to lift it out of the brook. It would have been quite a haul for the wrecker driver because it was all ledge down over this 10-foot drop.”
Lifting Almost Five Tons
The aerial has a lifting capability of almost five tons from the tip of the base section of the ladder, which reaches about 30 feet. “We just picked it up and set it upside-down in the road,” the chief said.
The all-wheel drive Carrabassett Valley Metz is 34-feet long, has a self-leveling turntable and the ladder, which is equipped with a rescue basket, can operate as far as 22 degrees below horizontal.
The area has commercial and residential developments valued at more than a half-billion dollars around the Sugarloaf ski area on tight, winding roads that traverse steep slopes. Frequently, Knapp said, buildings on one side of a road are above it, while on the other side, they are well below road elevation.
“A lot of times in our situation,” he said, “it’s not necessarily about height, it’s more about the reach over parked cars to these commercial buildings and condominums.”
The Metz PLC operating system is a type of envelope control system that, according to the manufacturer, manages 300 different ladder functions up to 50 times per second and can safely operate in temperatures between minus 40 degrees and 185 degrees Fahrenheit.
“With the PLC controls, it’s programmed in such a manner that you can’t whack the side of the truck at low angle because it’s going to prevent it from doing that,” Knapp said. “In terms of loading or overloading, it’s going to prevent you from operating at a low angle.”
One important consideration in buying the Metz, he said, was that it is used by volunteer firefighters. “They’re infrequent operators,” he said. “So basically the truck can operate on its own. It’s not relying so much on the skill of the operator as the older pieces of equipment might have.”
He said the department has not had any significant problems with the aerial or its PLC control system. “In every aspect of life, it doesn’t matter whether it’s an excavator at a construction site, they’re all computer-managed controls nowadays,” he said. “Every manufacturer has computer-managed systems to some degree. It just happens that this particular manufacturer is way out in front of the aerial folks in this country.”
When Carrabassett Valley selected Metz, he said, the company had only sold about 20 aerials in the United States, and the biggest question dealt with the quality and availability of service because Metz is based in Germany. “For the few little glitches that we’ve had,” Knapp said, “the service has been outstanding.”
Inquiries From Aspen
He said he has fielded a handful of inquiries from fire departments around the country about his experience with the Metz, most recently this winter from firefighters in Aspen, Colo., who are planning to purchase a new aerial that can operate effectively in tight quarters on steep terrain.
“There is getting to be more acceptance for a different way of doing things,” Knapp said.