Starkville Fire Department is looking to replace a ladder truck that is reaching the end of its lifespan.
For the past few weeks, Starkville Fire Chief Charles Yarbrough has lobbied aldermen to authorize the purchase of a new 100-foot ladder truck in the face of mounting mechanical issues with Ladder 1. On Tuesday, the board approved his request, authorizing the purchase of an estimated $1.46 million ladder truck to replace the aging Ladder 1.
Estimated payments for the new truck would be roughly $154,000 over 12 years, starting in Fiscal Year 2019.
Yarbrough told aldermen on Tuesday he believes SFD can sell Ladder 1 for about $200,000, which could be used to help cover the first year’s payment.
SFD purchased Ladder 1, a custom-built 100-foot ladder truck, in 2006.
In the past three years, though, the truck has experienced problems, and SFD has spent $112,000 on repairs for the truck — not counting what firefighters have done in-house to Ladder 1 — according to Capt. Andy Sharp.
Many of the problems are operational, Sharp said, with the ladder not extending, raising, lowering or rotating as it should.
Sharp also said the truck’s motor has been rebuilt once. Yarbrough said the truck’s also experienced major electrical issues and is prone to breaking down.
“We’ve had major problems with it breaking down on us in the middle of the highway,” Yarbrough said. “It’s so big that nobody wants to tow it.
“It’s a big problem because if we were responding to a structure fire and it broke down, we’ve got people in a house burning that we can’t get to,” he added. “We’d have to reroute another truck over there. It’s a danger.”
For example, Yarbrough said, Ladder 1 was broken down during an October 2017 fire that destroyed 12 units and displaced 18 residents at Avalon Apartments in west Starkville. The department responded with its 75-foot ladder truck, which lacks the platform that Ladder 1 carries.
“We needed both that day,” Yarbrough said.
The truck has become more of a problem than an asset, Sharp said, with the department only using it now when absolutely necessary.
“Overall, if you look at it, it’s been a good truck but we’ve had some major problems that have caused us major setbacks,” Sharp said. “We’ve been without the truck for several months at a time.”
Ladder 1 is a Pierce truck. Yarbrough said he wants its replacement to be another custom-built model, but SFD is looking for a different company to build it.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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