Buying an aerial fire truck much more complicated than searching internet

I would like to respond to one of the topics on Mr. Dressler’s last onslaught of town bashing.

Dear Editor,

I would like to respond to one of the topics on Mr. Dressler’s last onslaught of town bashing. As a taxpayer in Sylvan Lake, I can appreciate someone trying to save us all some money, but there are times when a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I sell fire trucks for a living, and I know Sylvan Lake Fire Department has been exploring various sizes and designs of aerial apparatus. Our town is growing, buildings are getting higher, and we expect our fire department to handle anything the pops up, and do it safely. Currently, as I understand it, local crews have to attack all fires, no matter how high, from within, or as high as ladders will reach.

Purchasing a used pumper is one thing. Purchasing a used aerial is quite another. These are very complex machines, and you want to be absolutely positive of their condition before you send anyone 100’ in the air with it. If it was a neighbouring community selling it, and you were well aware of its history and maintenance, great! However, if you have no idea of its life, incidents, or accidents, there could be some incredibly costly issues that are not immediately obvious, and could prove dangerous to our volunteer firefighters.

Following are a number of things that you are likely not aware of, and all have a bearing on the decision of what to buy.

The insurance industry assesses the community as a whole, looking at things like population, infrastructure, water supply, number of firefighters, that number and types of trucks, their pumping capacities, their age, etc. etc. etc. It is a very exhaustive survey across the entire municipal entity. With this, they set a rate, not unlike a mill rate, that directly affects your insurance rate, including the town’s insurance rates. If things get neglected, the rates go up … yours … mine … and the town’s. The town then needs more taxes to cover the insurance. Guess where that comes from?

So, in a roundabout way, it is in all of our best interests that the town stay progressive, and on top of things both in infrastructure, as well as equipment. One of the stipulations they impose is that an unrestricted front line fire apparatus can be no more than 20 years old. This used truck you found is eight years old now, and would likely be nine by the time it arrived, was tested, all personnel trained, and put into service. The town would already have to be long range planning to replace it by the time they got it.

There have been some incredible advancements in aerials in the past few years, all in the name of safety. One example is only allowing operation of the device within a safe envelope, based on the configuration of the truck, outrigger set, load in the platform, angle of the aerial, flowing water, wind speed, etc. An aerial from eight years ago would be prior to all these advancements.

Here are a few other things to consider. The truck you found is an American LaFrance. This company has been teetering on bankruptcy for several years now. If they did happen to go under, where would that leave us as far as any warranty or liability considerations?

You said it only had 5,000 miles on it. That in no way tells you anything about a fire truck. Mileage does not equate to hours on a pump, or on the engine. Most fire trucks drive a little way, then sit there and pump hard for hours. A worn out pump is a costly venture, and even more so on an aerial.

Does it have a pump? Not all aerials do. If it doesn’t, does the local fire department have enough pumpers that they can dedicate one strictly to supplying the aerial device with water?

You said this is an aerial. Is it a straight stick, or a platform? Does that suit the needs of the local department? Would an articulated device be more practical for the diverse terrain we have in our town? What are it’s below grade capabilities?

You stated that this truck was in miles, which leads me to believe that it is an American vehicle. Is it ULC rated, or NFPA rated? The Canadian certification to ULC is far more involved, and strict, than the NFPA “guidelines”.

As you can see, this is not a simple matter. Diving into the purchase of something used, with an unknown history, and perhaps not well suited to the needs of our rapidly growing community, may not be the most wisely spent money either.

Oh, and one more thing. Perhaps your next letter to the editor could be something on a more positive note, like how much you enjoyed Jazz at the Lake, or the Farmers’ Market, or a late evening stroll along the lake on our beautiful promenade. I think most readers are growing tired of your incessant complaining.

David Spencer,

Sylvan Lake