City’s million-dollar ladder truck arrives

A new piece of firefighting equipment joined the Biloxi Fire Department fleet today: a million-dollar ladder truck that will help firefighters deal with highrise fires and rescues.

The new truck,  which will be stationed at the Lee-Chinn Fire Station on Veterans Avenue,  replaces a 22-year-old ladder truck, and it will be one of five ladder trucks the city has in its fleet.

The truck cost $992,000 and was paid for with Community Development Block Grant funds.

The custom-built truck was manufactured by E-ONE, a brand familiar to Biloxi firefighters and the city’s factory-certified mechanics who maintain the city’s public safety vehicles. Its ladder will be able to reach 100 feet in the air, or about 10 stories. Any fires above seven stories, Fire Chief Joe Boney said, are fought internally and with the aid of a building’s sprinkler system.

“This truck offers us a number of new features and innovations,” Boney says. “All of its lights are LED lights, which draw less voltage from the truck. It has rescue craddles for the basket at the top of the ladder, which will help us effect rescues of ambulatory patients from highrises as well as do high-angle rescues off it.

“Another thing we did was to make changes to the control panels. We’ve moved from electronic control panels to manual panels, primarily because they are more reliable. You have to remember we’re dealing with water, and water and electronics don’t mix.

“And, finally,” Chief Boney said with a smile, “this truck has something that you don’t see on a lot of new firetrucks: a bell.”

The design of the truck, incidentally, represents a milestone for the 110-year-old Biloxi Fire Department.”Some time ago we established an apparatus committee made up of departmental personnel who use this equipment everyday and whose life depends on the reliability of these apparatus,” Boney said. “When we look to purchase new equipment like this, this committee conducts independent research and produces a written report of their results.  The recommendations help us produce an apparatus that is tailored to suit the needs of the city.”

Among the factors considered in purchasing the new truck: the size of the streets as well as the size and types of buildings within the unit’s run area; the tasks most likely to be performed with the apparatus (firefighting vs. rescue); weather and climatic conditions that may affect the operation and longevity of the apparatus, as well as multi-purpose use or versatility of the apparatus (can the apparatus also be used as a pumper if required?).

The truck replaces the department’s 22-year-old ladder truck. Boney said cities jeopardize their fire rating when using fire trucks more than 20 years old. The 22-year-old truck will be used as a spare truck, and a 30-year-old ladder truck now being used as a spare will be sold as surplus. The age of spare trucks, Boney said, does not impact the city’s fire rating.

Said Boney of the new truck: “The citizens of Biloxi can rest assured that the fire department does not take this purchase lightly, and we have taken all necessary steps to obtain the most precise and accurate information to purchase the best product available.  Above all, this apparatus will ensure lasting service, to serve and safeguard the citizens and visitors we are charged with protecting.”

Meet the apparatus committee: Members of the Biloxi Fire Department apparatus committee are Battalion Chief Steve Strickler, Capt. Clarence Parker, Mechanic Chris Bellais, and Firefighters III Shane Breland, Irvin Dement, Charles Hawkins and Derrick Gates.
See photos of the new ladder truck
See Biloxi’s ladder trucks in action (Vieux March fire, 2011)