Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Downturn Vs. Windfall

One man's downturn often leads to another man's windfall. It's not that any decent person wants to take advantage of somebody's problems, it's just that sometimes fate presents you with an opportunity that is just too good to pass up.

I had heard about this deal a few weeks ago, but as I had jinxed the new Station 1 project with a post, I decided to keep quiet about this until it was a done deal.

Notice the apparatus in the center of the photo below. Observe how it is a little different shade of red and how it has a two-tone paint job - white over red. Also note that the lettering on it is that of a different department than the ones next to it.

Until yesterday afternoon, that piece of apparatus was Truck 412 from the Cathedral City Fire Dept. It is now (or will be after it gets back from the radio and lettering shop) Truck 2 of the City of Riverside Fire Dept.

It is a 2006 American La France/LTI  tractor-tiller ladder truck, equipped with a 100" ladder and a 1500 GPM pump. It has under 25000 miles and has been very well cared for. The fact that it was available for purchase is a sad statement to the economic challenges that many departments face in these screwed-up times.

It is my understanding that Cathedral City was forced to eliminate staffing on the truck and decided that it was too valuable an asset to allow to rot away in one of the stations. The influx of cash from it's sale would assist in taking care of some other issues and the truck would be put to good use with another agency.

As our Truck 2 is getting rather tired and we don't have a reserve truck, this became a great opportunity to solve some issues of our own at a reduced cost. Currently, if a Truck goes down for maintenance, Truck 3 is moved to the truckless station and is staffed by that crew. The Heavy Rescue is then placed in service at Station 3 as a reserve truck. While that has worked in keeping truck company coverage at a consistent level, Truck 3 and Rescue 3 have been taking a beating. No one loves a child more than their parents, the same can be said for fire apparatus.

When the new truck is back from the shop and placed in service, the current Truck 2 will become a reserve truck, easing it's life and that of Truck 3 and the Rescue. Win-win-win.

The truck was specked-out very well and is similar to our Truck 3. It was not a low-bid build and it appears that a lot of thought went into it's design.

It has slide-outs in many of the compartments and equipment boxes to keep stuff organized and in place.

It came with quite a bit of equipment as well, most of it stuff that is usually only carried on a truck or a Heavy Rescue. A tripod, Air-Shore system and a Rescue 42 stabilization system are few of the goodies that came with it, as well as an assortment of hand-held power tools.

There were some chainsaws and a rotary saw or two on it as well. They look well used, but I don't think anyone has really checked them out yet. If nothing else, they can be used for training purposes.

A couple of things that this truck has that none of our existing trucks have is a pump and a water tank.

I never really liked the idea of having pumps and tanks on ladder trucks or having aerials mounted on engines (as in telesquirts). While they have a purpose in some departments, time has proven that they really don't pencil out in many departments. Having said that, I really don't think that this configuration is going to change our operations all that much. It will be nice to have a pump and water on board if the truck comes across a fire of some sort or if extended water tower operations are required, though for most things, operations will likely stay the same.

Equipment placement will definitely be different as the place where we usually put our fans and the space where the fixed generator is located is now occupied by the pump and the water tank. I'm sure the crews at two's will figure it out and it will be all good.

I'm glad that someone had the idea to measure the new truck and measure the doorway at Station #2. As this truck is a little taller than the one it is replacing, it just barely fits.

It should fit at Station #1 OK, especially the new one. Sta. #3 is a bit of a problem, the station alerting speakers hang a bit, the tiller box will hit them for sure. The new truck was parked at 3's for the night yesterday. Though the cab cleared, the truck will have to be backed out to avoid damage.

That poses the twenty dollar question. Do we spend the money now to relocate the alerting speakers knowing that at sometime in the future someone will try to pull through the station or do we rely on signs, memory and awareness that Truck 2 won't fit in Sta. #3?

I say spend the money now and move the speakers. It will prevent heartache in the future.
As far as I know, this is the first time in the modern era that we have purchased used apparatus for use as front-line equipment.We inherited a an open cab La France pumper back in the early sixties when we annexed the Arlanza Fire Protection District. It was white in color and I have been told that we had it painted soon after we acquired it. 

I know that we have purchased a demo or two over the years,(way before my time) with mixed results. They were bought cheap and not well liked. Both were equipped with 6V71 engines which were high on noise and low on horsepower. They were dirty Gerties as well spewing oil and soot about as they howled through the neighborhood.

 If we ever did buy used before, it was likely pre-WWII, or maybe back in the horse-drawn days.

Regardless, I think this purchase was a good one. It provides some financial relief  for Cathedral City and a needed piece of equipment for us. I am sure that there are some firefighters in Cat City who are saddened by this transaction. They, as I, wish that they didn't have to sell it. Any words that I type here will not make it better for them, they have bigger problems than the sale of Truck 412.

The hard work that they put into the specifications, layout and care of this truck will not go unappreciated, it has been noted by those of us who have had the opportunity to go through it. The Cathedral City firefighters can rest assured that we will take good care of it and guve it the love and attention that it deserves.

My other regret is that I won't get to tiller it. Maybe I should have stuck around another year.

Thanks for reading,


  1. A good deal and a looker too.

    Here's hoping she spends her days idle and her crews are bored.

    Not likely but it's a thought.


  2. Nice-looking rig. Not too many of those around here. Middletown, NY (about an hour away) is the closest tiller aerial to me, I think. I did some work on that truck back when I was doing radio and communication work, and I always liked tillers. When I was a kid, we lived in Minneapolis, and they had a few of them.

    Hope it serves your alma mater well. And I'll bet you can wangle a little "wheel time" some evening when nobody's looking, if you try.

    Oh, one other thing - mark me as a "plus-one" for moving the speakers. :)

  3. BG - She IS a looker. Her life will be easier than the other two trucks, I believe that she will be the slowest of the three trucks in our dept. Her station is the Haz-Mat station, so even though she will run less than her counterparts at sta. #1 and #3, her crews rarely get bored - that haz-mat stuff is time-consuming!

    NYEMT - Tiller Trucks are pretty popular around here, people like the maneuverability.

    When I started in '83, we were in the process of getting rid of our '50 something tiller, it had been replaced by a rear-mount straight stick. At that time we had two of the rear mounts and a '67 Snorkel in service. The rear-mounts lasted until the early '90s when we started going back to tillers.

    When new T1 showed up (now T2, soon to be the reserve) it seemed so large that I didn't think we would be able to get into many neighborhoods. Boy was I wrong. It was easier to maneuver than most engines.

    Other than a short, unsuccessful relationship relationship with a platform, it's been tillers for us.

    Thanks for the comments.