During a structure fire, time is of the essence and minutes are critical. However, when departments don’t have the right equipment it can create problems for both the community and firefighters.
For the Carson City Fire Department, not possessing a ladder truck has been one of its biggest struggles for the last eight years.
“Our ladders only reach to the windows of the second floor and we are in need of longer ladders for that aerial reach,” said Fire Chief Sean Slamon.
A ladder truck is critical in reaching fires on buildings over two stories. In Carson City there are more than 40 commercial buildings with three or more stories plus apartments and residences and right now, the department has no way to easily and safely access any fires on those top floors.
The department saw this challenge first hand recently after a fire broke out in a Glenbrook Drive residence, where flames reached the attic of a residence and firefighters weren’t able to access it.
“With the sloped roofs and the fire breached the attic and roof and it made it difficult to reach where having that ladder truck would have made it quicker and easier,” Slamon said.
Currently, to obtain a ladder truck in a fire Carson Fire has to rely on mutual aid agreements from East Fork, Tahoe Douglas and Reno Fire. However, even if a ladder truck is available at the time, it could take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes to get to Carson during a fire.
“Our biggest concern is that the closest ladder truck is 15 to 20 minutes away and we don’t have the ability to make exterior ladder access to anything above a second floor before 15 minutes and that is not realistic, especially if someone is trapped in a fire,” Slamon said.
The ladder truck has a multitude of uses, from being able to put out a large volume of water above a fire to stop the spread and knock down embers to setting up a ropes technical rescue.
Slamon said he had first hand experience with the effectiveness of a ladder truck rope technical rescue at his old department in Modesto when they had to rescue a would be criminal after he got stuck inside a chimney.
“A gentleman tried to rob a business and tried to go down the chimney Santa Claus style and he got stuck and the only way to access him was from above,” Slamon said. “So we went in with the truck, got him in a harness and pulled him out.”
But, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The Fire Department was able to identify extra funding internally from its reimbursement program to fund the purchase of a ladder truck.
The Carson Board of Supervisors approved the funds in the tentative budget, and Slamon said they now need to research, evaluate and choose the style of truck best suited for Carson.
The going rate for a ladder truck is about $1.1 million to $1.4 million, but Slamon said they expect it will last at least 20 years for the city.
“So it is a large purchase upfront, but amortized for the life of the apparatus because we expect those years out of it,” Slamon said.
However, it will take about a year for the truck to arrive in Carson so Slamon hopes to get a truck selected and purchased by August.
The department has created a committee that will spend the next several months going to other departments to research what would be the best fit.
Slamon said they don’t know what station the ladder truck will be housed at, but one of his requirements is that it has the flexibility to be at any of them. He does hope this will create a better fire response for Carson and their ability to knock down fires quicker and safer.
“We will be more timely and efficient in our fire response and less reliant on our regional partners, for specifically their ladder trucks,” Slamon said.