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Firefighters reaching new heights
100-foot ladder truck delivers more effective fire suppression
Battalion chief Randy May and fire volunteer Bob Pfirmann — a retired New York fire chief — demonstrate the 100-foot aerial ladder from Manteca’s new “Quint” apparatus. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Manteca has come a long way since purchasing its first motorized fire truck — a new 1920 Ford combination pump and chemical engine — that cost $4,000 and came equipped with ladders to reach the second floor.

Manteca’s latest fire truck — an aerial platform ladder engine that cost $952,000 fully equipped — can reach windows as high as the sixth floor.

It was up in the air — 100 feet to be exact — for just about anyone who wanted to gain first hand appreciation of that new “Quint” aerial platform fire engine Tuesday morning at Fire Station 1 on South Powers Avenue.

Fire Chief Chris Haas welcomed a small crowd of citizens and firemen inside the department’s fire engine bays and thanked the city council for being foresighted in the purchase of the new apparatus.

The new engine was backed out of the station onto the back lot — its outriggers extended — and readied for anyone interested in taking a ride to the greatest extension of its ladder.

Doctors Hospital administrator Mark Lisa and city clerk Joann Tilton seemed the most thrilled about their “E-Ticket” rides over the Powers Avenue fire station.  Another who was exuberant about the new engine was fire department volunteer and a retired New York fire chief Bob Pfirmann.

Lisa was quick to wave at the crowd below as he reached the top and a somewhat hesitating Tilton raised both arms in a cheer as the platform reached ground level again — she had done it.

The new engine will be housed at the South Union Road station and is to be manned by firefighters provided through the Measure M sales tax measure.

While the firefighters are going to be able to reach the top of a six story building, that’s far from being the only benefit of the new apparatus with its double water canons that shoot out 1,000 gallons per minute each.

Aerial truck will make residential fire attacks more effective

Its greater elevation allows firemen to attack a fire from an oblique angle to control the spread of flames on the roofs of industrial buildings and halting wind swept grass fires during the summer months.

It will also give Manteca Fire Department the ability to more effectively combat residential house fires that happen at the large two-story homes in excess of 3,500 square feet that have been dubbed McMasnions.

Setbacks from the street have increased as homes have gotten bigger and higher meaning the existing ladder truck hasn’t been unable to reach the roof.

The existing 55-foot ladder truck isn’t in front-line service any more due to its age. It is more than 20 years old. It also has limited use as homes kept getting bigger and farther back from the streets. It also isn’t able to adequately fight substantial fires at existing big boxes — such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Ford Motor Co. — where the ability to direct water from above a fire can substantially reduce losses and contain blazes quicker.

The residential applications are expected to give the department the ability to respond more effectively to roof fires on newer two-story homes. The platform-style ladder truck will be able to have a reach over parked cars and front yards to give firefighters quicker access to roofs to start ventilation that can be critical to substantially reducing damage and containing fires.

The fact Manteca has a front-line ladder truck will serve as a benefit at all residential fires and not those at the so-called McMasnions. The ladder truck will respond to all residential fires, which means a ladder company will be on site at every call. While other engine companies conduct ground efforts, the ladder truck will concentrate exclusively on reaching the roof and doing the critical ventilation. That means all homeowners ultimately will have a benefit if their house catches on fire.

The fire department selected a platform instead of a ladder truck for several reasons.

Not only will it enable the department to reach the top floor of the proposed 96-foot Oak Valley Community Bank on Moffat Boulevard but also they will be able to conduct quicker and safer rescue operations.

The platform has a maximum tip load of 1,000 pounds compared to 500 pounds — essentially just two large adults — for an aerial ladder.

The platform is also easier for firefighters to maneuver whether it is while directing a fire hose are stepping down from the top of a building.

Also the platform allows one firefighter to bring down several non-ambulatory victims down at one time compared to the need to have one firefighter bringing one person down at a time on the aerial ladder.

It can deliver 2,000 gallons of water per minute

The platform hose can deliver 2,000 gallons of water per minute as opposed by one on an aerial ladder that maxes out at 1,000 gallons per minute. The result is water can be directed 20 feet farther.

That is critical on big boxes — retail buildings such as the 135,000-square-foot Target Store and business park structures such as the 550,000-square-foot Ford Motor Co. Parts Distribution Center.

About 75 percent of the ladder truck’s cost is being covered by growth fees. The balance is money the city has been setting aside to replace the current 55-foot truck.

The station at Union Road at the Highway 120 Bypass was built to accommodate both the larger aerial truck and the additional three-man per shift crew.

The “Quint” ladder truck is different from other like apparatus in that it carries a 300 gallon water reservoir with  hoses allowing firemen to immediately begin their attack on a blaze when they arrive on the scene without hooking up a hose line to a fire hydrant.

Battalion chief Randy May said the engine will not go into service until April giving firemen the opportunity to train with the truck in both business and industrial sections of the city.  He said citizens should not be alarmed in the near future to see the engine and its 100-foot aerial ladder training in the downtown, at the hospitals and in the industrial parks.
May was off to the Department of Motor Vehicles Tuesday afternoon to license the rig for the city after following the construction and the arrival of the new piece of equipment.

The battalion chief had traveled to Ohio to be sure the specifications of the manufacturer would meet the needs of the Manteca Fire Department before construction was begun in August.

Working with the company’s engineer responsible for the building of the trucks, May said the truck’s engine was fine-tuned to meet California’s emission restrictions.  In fact they changed the type engine from a Detroit Diesel to a Cummins. May explained that the Cummins engine requires less filtrations that act much the same as a catalytic converter.

On his second trip, May returned to Ohio for a final inspection to make certain everything was working properly before the ladder truck was driven to Manteca.  

May said the truck was built from the ground up adding that it doesn’t take all that long to produce — orders from other agencies were ahead of Manteca. Manteca Fire Department had to wait its turn.