Compartment Corner: Kutztown (PA) Fire Department Ladder 46

By Michael N. Ciampo

Kutztown is located in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania in Berks County. The area is known as the East Penn Valley, which is a broad limestone alley and is home to the famous Crystal Cave attraction that was discovered in 1871. Some of the rock formations inside the cave are over a half million years old. At one time, it was used for crop storage and social dances in one of its large rooms. Today it is open to tourists and visitors who see upside down rock formations and enormous drop rocks. Kutztown is a residential community with light industry and is a suburb to the Reading and Allentown. It is home to Kutztown University and has the busy Interstate 78 and PA State Highway Rt. 222 running through its response area. While driving through the area you may witness horse and buggy transportation as there are Mennonites living in this Pennsylvania Dutch area. Although most might think of the people as of Dutch descendants, it is really an area with ties that lead back to German descendants who transplanted to this country in colonial times. 


The Kutztown (PA) Fire Department was in operation in the early 1800s with just fire ladders and then a fire apparatus with local citizens gathering together to protect the town. The department was originally organized in 1908 but was not incorporated until 1918. It is a completely volunteer organization that covers the town and more than 40 square miles in the surrounding areas. The department currently operates out of its Noble Street station with a 2010 Stuphen Monarch rngine with a 1,500-gpm pump, and 1,000-gallon water tank; a 2004 Spartan/Smeal 2,500-gallon engine-tanker with a 1,500-gpm pump; a 2015 Stuphen/SVI rescue apparatus equipped with a light tower and hydraulic rescue tools and equipment; a 1994 Hummer H1 brush truck with a 500-gpm pump and 250-gallon tank; and a 2016 Ford Police Interceptor chief and command vehicle.

The department, recognized as Station 46, recently became the proud owner of a 2017 E-ONE Cyclone HM100 aerial ladder with a prepiped waterway and LED blue light illumination for better visibility when climbing at night or in smoke conditions. The rig has seating for six firefighters with five seats SCBA-equipped. The apparatus is powered by a 500-hp Cummins IS12 engine and has a Hale Qmax 2,000-gpm pump and a 500-gallon water tank. Its portable ladder inventory consists of: 35-, 28-, and 24-foot extension ladders; 16- and 14-foot roof ladders; and a 10-foot folding ladder. Since the department responds to a first-due area with everything from a historic downtown area to a college campus, rural farmland, light industrial complexes, and busy highways, the need for the apparatus to serve dual purposes is much needed. In addition, with the purchase of the multipurpose apparatus, an increase of mutual aid responses to neighboring jurisdictions has occurred.

The rig is painted with a red over white paint scheme on the cab with a red rear body. A large white reflective stripe runs on the lower portion of the cab and then diagonally upward behind the pump panel on the first compartment. Then it runs horizontally across the upper portion of the body toward the rear of the rig. It has yellow stripes that outline the white and each side of the red stripes that run through the main stripe. On the front door of the rig is a unique department emblem that adorns all of the cab doors on all of Kutztown’s fire apparatus. On the crew cab doors are the company’s logos, and on the rear compartments of the body and rear of the rig are large 46 numbers with “Ladder” inscription above them. Mounted on each side of the aerial ladder is signage that says “Ladder 46”. The rear of the apparatus and front bumper have NFPA-complaint reflective safety chevrons and striping. On one compartment on each side of the apparatus is signage informing viewers that the apparatus proudly serves Kutztown Boro, Maxatawny Township, Greenwich Township, and Kutztown University. 

On the officer’s side of the rig, the compartment layout does not mimic the chauffeur side because of the hosebed on this side of the apparatus, which carries 800 feet of five-inch hose.

The first compartment back from the crew cab has a set of irons and bolt cutter attached to a bracket on the inside of the front door. On the rear wall in this compartment are various bags of rope used in cave rescue responses (Note: the department maintains various sets of rope; some is for search purposes and not to be used for rescue. Bags are marked in the appropriate manner.). Mounted on the lower section of the compartment are three extinguishers: foam can, ABC dry chemical, and pressurized water can.

The next compartment behind this one is an electrical storage compartment. The upper portion of the compartment has four lengths of electrical extension cords in pretied bundles for easy retrieval off the apparatus. On the front and rear wall of the compartment are brackets that hold various sizes and types of pig tails. Beneath the cords on a shelf is an electrical junction box. Stored on the compartment floor are two electric fans: a Super Vac smoke ejector and Tempest Power Blower.

In the next compartment is some of the department’s rope and rigging equipment carried on an upper pull out tray and lower shelf.

The first smaller compartment under the hosebed carries two sets of metal hose ramps. The rear compartment on this side of the rig has three storage areas. On the top shelf are: a donut roll of hose, fittings, adapters, nozzles, and a three-way gated manifold. This equipment coincides with the apartment stretch and “leader” lengths of hose mounted in the area below this shelf. The leader length of 2½-inch hose has a gated wye preattached to the hose bundle for easier deployment. Below the lead length is 100 feet of 1¾-inch hose for the attack line. In the area toward the front of the compartment is a short donut rolled section of five-inch supply line. 

The new aerial apparatus is a welcome addition to Kutztown’s fire apparatus fleet of fire apparatus. It is still being equipped with tools and equipment, and the compartment layout is still in its layout phase as members make minor adjustments and modifications to make the truck work for them. 

MICHAEL N. CIAMPO is a 31-year veteran of the fire service and a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York. Previously, he served with the District of Columbia Fire Department. He has a bachelor’s degree in fire science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. He is the author of “Compartment Corner” on He is the lead instructor for the FDIC International Truck Essentials H.O.T. program. He wrote the Ladder chapter and co-authored the Ventilation chapter for Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II (Fire Engineering, 2009) and is featured in “Training Minutes” truck company videos on

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