Even when not fully extended, the ladder of Price City's new aerial truck has an impressive reach.
For some it may seem overkill for a county that has no building more than three stories high. But for Paul Bedont, the Chief of the Price Fire Department, it is a needed addition to his department's ability to provide fire protection and provide public safety to the entire county.
"This unit provides us the ability to do a lot of things we could never do before," he said as he stood by the new aerial fire truck in the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum parking lot on Tuesday afternoon. "I have seen situations we have been in where this truck would have made a big difference."
The new 43-foot-long, 42 ton Rosenbauer manufactured fire unit will replace the current aerial truck that is more than two decades old and is now parked at the city's maintenance domes.
"This truck is so far advanced beyond that unit's technology," said Bedont. "Besides that truck is now considered obsolete, in fact unsafe."
So unsafe that in conjunction with getting a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration for $760,000 to purchase the new truck, he had to sign a contract to agree not to sell or donate it to any organization that might use if for public safety.
So the new truck, dubbed 4402, will come into service as soon as the new building to house it across the street from the present fire house is completed. The Price Fire Station could not hold the truck because it is not big enough.
For everyone who has ever heard the term "user friendly," this truck fits right in. Gone are complicated controls, requiring huge amounts of training to operate. This truck is intuitive, in fact it is so intelligent that the huge 109 foot ladder cannot be dropped onto the truck no matter what the operator does.
"Most aerial unit damage occurs when a fire fighter hits the truck with the ladder," said Bedont as he operated the ladder with a remote control from the ground. "They hit the truck with the ladder and cause huge amounts of damage. Watch, it won't let me bring it down wrong."
He pulled the ladder off to the side and tried to lower it onto the truck but the computer overruled him and stopped the action. Bedont called this feature, and many others on the truck, "smart truck design."
This is one powerful machine. It has a Cummings ICX engine which generates 500 horsepower and it is hooked to an Allison 4000 transmission. The engine generates 1,900 foot pounds of torque. For those that may not understand all that, this engine can bring this truck from 0-50 in a very short distance, although most fire trucks get much more worn out idling at the site of emergencies than they do driving down the road. That driving is also energy intensive. The 60 gallon tank would probably only support a trip of about 240 miles (4 miles per gallon).
Inside the truck, the intuitive nature of the vehicle continues. Built-in cameras view the surrounding area so that the driver cannot run over a car he cannot see on either side or behind him. In fact, when the signal light is activated, the view on the screen that hangs just to the right of the driver switches to the camera that is pointed in the direction he is turning.
All the switches and valves in and on the truck are simple, with plain labels that are lit up so they can be seen at night. In fact almost everything lights up.
"The other morning I had this in the parking lot before the sun came up with all the lights on when the city council was having its early morning meeting," stated Bedont. "The light cables on the ladders and all the lights all over the truck lit up the place. With the ladder raised it almost looked like an oil rig at night."
One of the biggest problems in an emergency is communication and at a noisy fire scene sometimes signals get mixed. The truck features a communication center that allows fire fighters to be up to 100 feet away from the truck and talk to everyone connected to the unit with wireless communication devices. This is particularly important for someone who is at the top of that 109 foot ladder either rescuing someone or fighting a blaze.
The truck contains what many refer to as a "black box" similar to what are used on aircraft to track what happens with the truck, including what might occur in an accident.
The truck can pump up to 2,000 gallons of water per minute, more than most hydrants can supply. Its internal tank only holds about 500 gallons and Bedont noted that "we would use that up very quickly." Most aerial trucks don't hold much water so that is nothing new. Like in the military, whether it be tanks, aircraft or ships, which are just considered weapon platforms, the weapon on this truck is that ladder. That is the reason for its existence.
Bedont demonstrated how the ladder can be converted with a lever from a ladder with a huge nozzle to pour water onto fires from above or through windows, into a rescue vehicle that pushes the ladder beyond the nozzles so that someone could be rescued from a high and dangerous place or from a swift water situation. The end of the ladder extended out at any range or angle can handle up to 500 pounds. At a 45 degree angle it can deal with 750 pounds.
"One of the situations we face in Carbon County are the large setbacks that many homes have," he said referring to the distance homes are often located from paved streets. "This will allow us to get much closer with our equipment and at the same time protect our fire fighters.
It would seem a 42 ton vehicle would not need anything more than itself to support the ladder even when it is extended horizontally, but the truck does use outriggers to support the weight. One of the unique features is that the outriggers don't need to be fully extended to work but can be "shortjacked" or not extended all the way to work correctly.
The truck itself was built in North Dakota and then was sent to Omaha, Neb. for the ladder installation. Then it went back to North Dakota for the rest of the buildout. Generally each truck takes an entire year to be constructed. But because the type of cab that the city wanted to buy was already built, the delivery of this truck only took about five months.
"We were lucky to get it this fast," said the chief. "We are lucky to have it in our area."
Bedont said that many of the fire fighters had already been to the top of the ladder with it fully extended. A few were hesitant, but as with anything how the ladder behaves when one is on it 100 feet in the air takes some getting used to.
This machine will definitely be used to cut down property damage during fires but as Bedont says, its use as a life saving machine may be its biggest strength.
"If it saves one life it will be worth the cost," he stated.