MERIDEN — Firefighters will train this week to use a new ladder truck that requires two drivers.
Fire Chief Kenneth Morgan said the truck, made by Seagrave, looks like a semi-truck but needs two drivers to operate it. The truck eventually will take over for Truck 1 and be housed at Station 2, Training Officer Ryan Dunn said. The old fire truck will become the city’s backup vehicle and the city will try to sell the current backup vehicle, Morgan said.
A federal grant covered most of the cost for the new truck, with the city chipping in a small amount, Morgan said. Officials expect the truck to have about a 15-year lifespan, averaging three to five calls a day, Morgan said.
After 15 years of being the front line truck, when a new one is purchased, the truck will have about five years of service as a backup truck, Morgan said.
“We refer to it as the toolbox,” Morgan said. “It will go out on the majority of calls.”
The crew will train on the new truck for four days this week, then send it out for equipment installation, and the crew will train again for about another month, Dunn said. If calls came in, the crew might respond for the manpower, but the truck would not be used in a service call yet, Dunn said.
The truck, which is about 60 feet long and has a 100-foot ladder, will be used for forcible entry, technical rescues and fire calls, Morgan said. Four people at a minimum are needed to operate the truck. During training on Tuesday, the crew practiced extending the ladder for water rescues, negotiating a steep hill and backing into an alley. The crew trained on the grounds of the state-owned Undercliff property off Chamberlain Highway, using the buildings as practice roofs and windows for placing the ladder.
The truck was custom-built for the Meriden Fire Department in Wisconsin, Dunn said. A representative from Seagrave was on hand during training to show firefighters all the “bells and whistles” of the new apparatus. The Federal Emergency Management Agency footed half the bill for the $1.2 million truck, and the city used its capital improvement fund to pay the remainder.
Dunn said having two drivers for one vehicle “takes some getting used to,” but is not too hard once they master it. The crew uses a combination of honking signals and headsets to stay in contact about what’s happening with the truck, Dunn said.
“It’s a really nice truck,” Morgan said. “You can’t miss it when it’s lit up like a Christmas tree.”