With ladder truck broken, New London firefighters look to neighbors for help

New London — Damage to the city’s only working ladder truck has the city’s fire department leaning on its neighbors for help.

The 12-year-old ladder truck, known as Truck 2, has been out of service since Nov. 4 when it sustained damage to one of the outriggers during a response to a Colman Street fire.

While the truck runs and still responds to fires, Fire Chief Thomas Curcio said the 100-foot ladder cannot be extended due to safety concerns. New parts are expected to arrive by early December and Curcio said the city's certified mechanic plans to get the truck back into action as quickly as possible.

The city's second ladder truck, a 1992 Sutphen, is out of service and unlikely to ever see action in the city again.  

So the city is now in the market for a new ladder truck, which is likely to cost more than $1 million.

The department has arrangements in place with fire departments in neighboring towns to respond to every call with smoke or a suspected structure fire. Those departments include Waterford’s Jordan Fire Department, Groton’s Poquonnock Bridge Fire Department, the City of Groton and the Submarine Base Fire Department — departments that already answer the call for mutual aid when needed.

Waterford is likely to respond to most calls because of its proximity but either way, Curcio acknowledged, response times will not be as swift.

“There is going to be a more delayed response because there is more travel time but we’re in a good position with these departments,” Curcio said.

Waterford has been called on several times in the last month, including on Tuesday when New London firefighters were dispatched to reports of a possible structure fire at the three-story building at 92 Truman St., home to two street level spaces and nine apartments.

Jordan Fire Department’s Ladder 15 extended its ladder to the building’s roof. There was heavy smoke coming from the building while it was evacuated. The smoke was caused by a malfunctioning furnace. The building was ventilated and residents later returned.

Curcio said New London’s ladder truck remains useful since it can carry rescue equipment and a variety of ground ladders. It is being manned with extra personnel.

The 2007 Seagrave is known as a tiller because the rear portion of the truck is steered independently from the front. It was purchased for about $743,000 in 2007 and has had mechanical issues through the years that make it a candidate for a future back-up truck.

Curcio said the city has for the past three years unsuccessfully tried to obtain financial aid to purchase a new truck through the federal fire fighters assistance programs. While outside funding will still be sought, he said the city is also researching demo ladder trucks, vehicles that can be purchased at a discounted price with a short lead time to get into service.

Even if the city could come up with the money for a new ladder truck, it takes more than a year for the truck to be outfitted and delivered since it has to be custom built to city needs. The city's newest truck is a 2018 Ferrara pumper.

New London Chief Administrative Office Steve Fields said the city is researching costs and has met with the finance department for a financing plan to be presented to the City Council.

g.smith@theday.com  

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