By Rick White
At 48 feet long and 41 tons — which is about the same weight as 39 Volkswagen Beetles — the Clovis Fire Department’s ladder truck is the
biggest, baddest firefighting machine in the department’s arsenal.
Its hydraulic-powered ladder extends 105 feet.
Up front it its massive cab there is room for the driver and a lieutenant up front and four firefighters in the back.
It even has its own generator.
Handles like a …
City streets are built for passenger vehicles, not
Making tight turns, such as at
intersections, is particularly challenging, driver/operator Tyler Adams said. “Sometimes you just have to wait until they move or direct them to move.”
Then there’s the narrow streets, which necessitates the need for spotters, driver/operator Rodney Alanis said.
A higher purpose
The ladder truck is used for what is termed high value responses — churches, banks, industrial buildings — and multi-story structures, Alanis said. It’s not called out often, he said. A fire in 2012 at the Clovis Apartments that displaced 12 families is an example of its value, Adams said.
Battalion Chief Ricky Mitchell said when the department first received the ladder truck they took it to Hotel Clovis for training. They learned the ladder came up 10 feet short of reaching the roof. A ladder placed in the basket was needed to reach the roof.
Sirens, horn blasts and lights warn drivers of emergency vehicles approaching, but drivers still proceed with caution, especially at intersections. “Even though we have the lights and sirens going, we slow down to a crawl,” Adams said.
Because of its massive weight, the ladder truck takes a lot longer to stop than passenger vehicles.
“No matter what, drivers have to make sure they are thinking of the safety of the public and the firefighters come first,” Alanis said.
National Fire Protection Association standards call for the ladder truck to stay within 10 mph over the speed limit when responding to emergencies. Alanis said the Clovis FD standard is 5 mph over the limit.
It takes a six-month program to become certified as what is called a driver/operator.
There are three parts to the certification test: Written, street maps and practical, which includes learning how to operate the pumping equipment and the ladder.