Flying high

By Emily Jarrett

February 13, 2014

Sedalia Fire Department firefighters are spending most of this week flying.

Before the department can put its 101-foot ladder truck into service, nearly all of its firefighters must go through extensive training and certification, prompting the department to spend Wednesday, Thursday and today learning about the new truck.

“Of our 39 guys, 36 of them will be trained,” said SFD Chief Mike Diztfeld. “It’s a very technical piece of equipment so they spend the morning in the classroom, then about an hour actually investigating the truck, take a quick break for lunch and the afternoon is spent outside putting everything into practice.”

On Thursday afternoon firefighters were “flying” on the new Fire Station No. 2’s back parking lot. Flying involved stepping into the platform attached to the truck’s ladder, raising it to its full height of 101 feet and steering in multiple directions or near the station’s training tower. Representatives from Rosenbauer Aerials — a Minnesota-based company that manufactured the truck — were on hand to teach the firefighters the ins and outs of the new equipment.

“This truck is incredibly different from our old one,” Ditzfeld said. “First of all, it’s massive. Not just in the ladder height but it’s also 12-feet 9-inches tall, just maneuvering it around town is going to take some getting used to. Secondly everything is controlled by a touchscreen computer, even shifting into gear.”

Ditzfeld said training was going well and crews would spend most of today out on the roads, getting a feel for how it drives.

“There are some low-hanging tree limbs and a few low-hanging poles we’re going to have to be watchful of, but I think once the guys start using it more, they’ll get it down in no time,” he added. “I’m hoping to have it in service by the end of next week, but it really depends on training, which is going to be an ongoing thing.”

The new truck will replace the department’s 15-year-old 75-foot ladder truck, which will be put into reserve. With a $900,000 price tag — lower than the original estimate of $1 million — it should last the department for the next 15 or 20 years, said Deputy Chief Greg Harrell.

“There are so many technological advances to this truck, things that years ago wouldn’t have even been thought of,” he said. “Something new, we’ll be able to attach a hose to the platform. So let’s say there was a fire in one of the upper stories of Hotel Bothwell, instead of having to drag hose up flights of stairs, we can drop it down through the roof. It’s a lot faster and safer.”

The department has had possession of the truck since early November, however, because Fire Station No. 2’s new bay wasn’t finished yet and the old bays weren’t large enough, it has been stored at the ProEnergy hangar at the airport.

“The guys have been pretty eager to get their hands on the new truck, we’ve had it for a few months but they haven’t been able to take it out yet,” Ditzfeld said. “I think we’re all just glad it’s here, the training has started and we’ll be able to get it out on the road soon.”