PORT TOWNSEND — If the upper floors of downtown’s Mount Baker Block or the Port Townsend Paper Corp. mill were to catch fire, East Jefferson Fire Rescue has the rig to attack from on high.
A new ladder truck — new to EJFR, that is — now lives at Station 1-6 at Lawrence and Harrison streets in Uptown Port Townsend.
The 40-ton apparatus, said EJFR Chief Bret Black, was purchased for $95,000 from a fire district east of Seattle.
The ladder truck is “gently used,” Black added. Had EJFR bought a new one, the price would be about $1.2 million plus the necessary gear; all in, a new truck usually amounts to $1.5 million.
Firefighters love to demonstrate such equipment, the chief said. Demonstrate they did on a recent afternoon alongside and above St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church, which has a lot of space around it for the truck to extend, rotate and retract its 95-foot ladder.
“We’re still in the training phase with it,” Lt. Curt Kilgore said. The bucket is fitted with four tethers, so it can lift four firefighters up over a fairly tall structure.
“We need to have this, for lower insurance [premiums] for our citizens,” Kilgore added.
The ladder truck, known as L16, joins nearly two dozen other pieces of apparatus at EJFR’s six fire stations.
“We have had ladder trucks in the past, but none this capable,” Black noted.
This ladder truck is called a quint, as it has five main tools to fight fire: It pumps water, carries water and deploys the main mechanical ladder; it has a large hose complement and it can carry extra conventional ladders.
“We have spent approximately $150,000 getting it refurbished, equipped and certified,” the chief said, adding that L16 underwent an extensive rebuild to include the motor, hydraulics, steering, suspension, transmission and brakes.
Ladder trucks are required to undergo extensive inspection and certification every year, Black said.
The truck will cover EJFR’s service area of 68 square miles, which has volunteer stations on Marrowstone Island, at the Jefferson County International Airport and at Cape George, and the staffed stations in Port Townsend and Chimacum.
Neighboring Clallam County Fire District 3 also has a ladder truck for its 142-square-mile service area. Its ladder is 100 feet in length, office assistant Caity Karaposteles said.
These vehicles, Black said, are part of the subcultures of the fire service, which he described as “medical vs. engine vs. truckies.” Black and EJFR Assistant Chief Pete Brummel spent most of their junior lives as truckies.
“There are some amusing caricatures of this paradigm in the series ‘Rescue Me,’” Black added.
Here in East Jefferson County, he hopes, the new used ladder truck will be in service by May 1.
Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz @peninsuladailynews.com.