WALLA WALLA — The city fire department’s new $850,000 ladder truck is back in operation after a $30,000 repair job required after it was damaged during a routine emergency run earlier this year.
On Jan. 17, the truck struck a concrete barrier while passing through a gate at the Walla Walla State Penitentiary. Per standard procedure, the truck crew had been dispatched to provide additional EMTs to assistant an ambulance team that had responded earlier to the call at the penitentiary. That call escalated to a cardiac arrest.
“On entering it was foggy, and when the driver, a 27-year veteran, looked in the mirror, he thought he had cleared the entrance,” Fire Chief Bob Yancey said. “That is when he started his left turn, and in doing so the right end swung out wide and clipped a concrete structure.”
The truck was driven back to the manufacturer in Lyon, S.D. for repairs and returned Mar. 26.
Shortly after the 109-foot long ladder truck was put into service last summer, its regular usage was criticized on a few occasions by Council Member Shane Laib, who felt the truck shouldn’t be relied on for routine calls because of its extreme value and poor gas mileage.
As a department policy, fire trucks accompany ambulance crews on about 15 percent of calls and are automatically sent out for cardiac arrests, unconscious persons or vehicle accidents. During its first year of service, the new fire truck was used more than normal so that fire crews could become familiar with its operation, Yancey said.
“I wanted the guys to get out there and drive it and work with this very technical truck,” he added.
Now that it has been in service almost a year, Yancey said its use will be scaled back to a regular rotation with other trucks of nine days out of every 30.
Damage to the fire truck was insured, but city officials did not claim the accident because the $25,000 deductible almost covered the entire cost.
The damage will be paid for from city funds left over from the purchase of the truck, Yancey said.