Monroe (LA) Firefighters Describe Dangers of Oldest Fire Apparatus

Monroe firefighters eagerly anticipate the day when they will bid farewell to their 39-year-old ladder truck.

Last week, the Monroe City Council approved the Monroe Fire Department’s request to purchase four new fire trucks: two pumpers, one heavy rescue vehicle and either a ladder truck or a platform truck. The new purchases will allow the department to retire three of its current apparatus and place its current rescue unit into reserve.

Mostly, firefighters hope to replace the 39-year-old ladder truck called Reserve Ladder One. Compared to its 10-year-old counterpart, Truck One, the technology and safety features of the older truck seem outdated.

Firefighters and training officers Edward Chisley and Antonio Smith consider the older truck a safety hazard.

“Both of them are steel ladders, but (Reserve Ladder One) doesn’t have the safety features that the other one has,” Chisley said.

Smith said for firefighters, safety is a priority, “not an option.”

Though built in 1975, Reserve Ladder One does not meet the National Fire Protection Association 1901 Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus.

“This particular ladder has to have a tip load of 250 pounds. But this one,” Chisley said, “it does not meet that standard. It has no tip load.”

If a firefighter stood on the tip of the ladder, his or her extremities could get caught between the rungs, and the other firefighters would have no way to retract the ladder. Reserve Ladder One also is missing a load minder.

“The load minder lets the operators know that the ladder itself is being overloaded,” Chisley said. On Truck One — built in 2004 — the load minder limits the ladder’s capacity to 500 pounds.

Chisley said because Reserve Ladder One does not meet the NFPA standard, its load capacity has not been rated.

Both trucks extend to about 100 feet. Though both trucks should be able to support their loads at full extension, he said the fire department “will never operate (Reserve Ladder One) at full extension, except to service it,” because it does not satisfy that standard.

Truck One, however, “will operate at every angle and can discharge water at every angle, at zero degrees,” Chisley said.

In order to prevent the truck from moving while firefighters climb the ladder, Truck One also features four outriggers: stabilizing apparatus extending from the base of the truck to the ground, locking the truck in place. Each outrigger is equipped with an interlock that firefighters can monitor from the back of the vehicle.

“If one malfunctions, the ladder will not be able to raise up out of its bed. You have to have four interlocks,” Chisley said. “If the interlocks don’t light up or don’t engage, the ladder cannot be raised.”

These safety features prevent the truck from moving, shaking or driving off while a firefighter climbs 100 feet into the air.

“When the ladder’s raised, somebody can fool with the controls all day long, and it’s not going to go anywhere. It’s not moving,” Chisley said.

Reserve Ladder One has no interlocks at all.

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