Most people have driven past fire houses and seen the colorful array of equipment waiting for an alarm. Did you ever wonder how a fire company decides what to buy?
The Woodlawn Volunteer Fire Company's aerial ladder is 20 years old and the company says it is time for a replacement. However, it is expensive - very expensive. Woodlawn expects to pay Pierce Manufacturing out of Appleton, WI nearly $1.3 million for a new 100-foot aerial ladder and borrow $900,000 to pay for the truck.
Woodlawn services a substantial and industrial base, like the Ford Stamping Plant, and its volunteers spent days putting water from the current aerial ladder on the old Bethlehem Steel Plant fire just over two years ago. The ladder is designed just for Woodlawn's needs: high enough to fight fires in the Gateway complex to short enough to make turns in some of the fire district's winding streets.
Fire Company President Patrick McAnaneny says it was not an easy choice, but a necessary one.
"It's part of our budget. It's something that we have to do for the community and the community that we serve," McAnaneny said. "If we don't have a ladder truck, I think their insurance is going to go up, a lot more per year, because we don't have it and we'd have to get mutual aid or something like that. There's nobody in the town who's going to have a truck like we're getting."
It will take about a year for the new aerial ladder to show up and then the 20-year old current truck will be sold, with the money going into a reserve for future purchases.
"It's actually four feet smaller than our truck that we have now. The turning radius is a lot tighter radius, so we can make the tight turns down some of our streets. It's made for our neighborhood," he said. "We did a lot of specifications on it so it would fit underneath all the bridges in our town, things like that, the railroad bridge on Amsdell, the one on Big Tree Road."
The public gets a chance to weigh in Dec. 28 at the fire hall to talk about the plan and the financing.
"This has been a two-year committee that we're on to pick a truck," McAnaneny said. "We've gone to Indianapolis, we've gone to Harrisburg, all the big shows. So price tag, we knew it was going to probably be around $1.3 for a truck. We already knew that, so we braced ourselves for it. We actually put it off for a year so we would have a little bit bigger down payment."