Long wait pays off
New aerial ladder fire truck rolls into Carbonear
The Carbonear Volunteer Fire Department’s long wait for a new aerial ladder fire truck ended Jan. 15 when a new Sutphen 100 tandem aerial ladder cruised into town with a cacophy of horns blaring and lights flashing.
While other cities have aerial ladder trucks, the new quintuple combination pumper (quint) which rolled into Carbonear earlier this month is the only make and model of its kind in the province.
Quint means the vehicle can perform five functions — aerial ladder, pumper, water tank, fire hose and ground ladders.
The provincial government is providing 80 per cent of the cost of the $837,000 truck, while the Carbonear town council is responsible for the remaining 20 per cent, or $167,000.
Shortly after noon, the new vehicle pulled onto the parking lot of the Carbonear General Hospital with firefighter Brent Sweeney at the wheel. Sweeney was one of seven firefighters, including Chief Ed. Kavanagh, who had been in St. John’s for three days of training prior to bringing it around the bay.
A motorcade formed up on the hospital parking lot and made its way through town. It ended at the Conception Bay Regional Community Centre where Kavanagh extended the 100-foot ladder over the parking lot.
Kavanagh is the latest of six fire chiefs who have been lobbying for a new aerial ladder truck over the past 16 years. Former chiefs Randy Butt, Fred Earle, Scott Thomas, Tom Crawford and Ron Garland had also lobbied a succession of municipal and provincial administrations for the equipment.
In August, the fire department finally received word from the provincial government that they were among 11 departments in the province to get funding approval under the Fire Protection Infrastructure Program.
The vehicle replaces a 1978 American LaFrance model, which has been inoperable for about 16 years.
As he watched the new truck arrive, Art Thomas, 81, was reminded of the spring day in 1978 when he and the late Clifford Pike arrived in Carbonear with the town’s first aerial ladder truck after a five-day drive from Elmira, New York.
Thomas, who served 10 years as fire chief in the 1970s and ‘80s, and Pike brought the truck home after spending a week touring the manufacturing plant and training on the vehicle.
He recalled presenting the company with a cheque for $115,000. At that time the equipment was financed through a 50-50 cost-sharing agreement between the department and the province. Pike had spearheaded the department’s twoyear fundraising drive.
Thomas said, “it’s too bad Cliff wasn’t around to see this day.”
“It was long overdue, but it was worth the wait,” Chief Kavanagh said. “It’s one fantastic and exceptional truck.”
He added: “It brings Carbonear well into the 21st century in terms of firefighting equipment and capabilities.”
Besides replacing the older aerial ladder truck, which will be sold, the new truck will also replace the department’s 1983 No. 2 pumper. Kavanagh said the ‘83 pumper has another year or so left in its lifespan.
“It’s a great day for the Carbonear Volunteer Fire Department,” Carbonear-Harbour Grace MHA Jerome Kennedy said, after handing the keys to the vehicle to mayor Sam Slade, who in turn handed them on to Kavanagh.
Kennedy was instrumental in securing the province’s share of funding, and described the event as “a sign of the fire department’s commitment and a recognition of their work.”
The specialized equipment is needed to protect facilities like the eight-story hospital, the region’s tallest building, the new long-term care facility to be built adjacent to the hospital, and the new primary- elementary school going up on Valley Road.
After watching the demonstration, Kennedy suggested an added bonus is that this equipment can be used for firefighting on a regional basis. He said it’s ladder can reach in over buildings, making it helpful when the department is called upon by neighbouring communities.
Mayor Slade agreed, describing the truck as “regional necessity,” despite the fact Carbonear is paying the municipal share.
The old aerial ladder truck had been used to help fight fires in Heart’s Content, Harbour Grace and Bay Roberts.
Slade gave full credit to Kennedy for his efforts in getting financial approval for the truck, saying he “worked very, very hard” on behalf of the town and the fire department.
“ There is no way in the world we would have gotten it without the minister’s help,” Slade said.