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Posted on Wed, Sep 19, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.

Chelsea Area Fire Authority replaces 1976 aerial ladder truck

By Laura Blodgett

Chelsea new fire truck.JPG

The Chelsea Area Fire Authority's new aerial ladder truck.

Laura Blodgett |

The Chelsea Area Fire Authority has replaced its 36-year-old aerial ladder truck with a new custom-built one with computer-controlled technology, an enclosed cab and a longer ladder.

"It was getting to the point where the cost effectiveness of keeping that (old) truck was becoming a problem," said fire authority Capt. Chris Smyth. “It was getting harder and harder to find parts for it, and with the Michigan weather, there was rust and deterioration of the body."

Voters approved a millage for the purchase of the new truck a few years ago. Its total price is just over $700,000.

"It will probably last another 30 years," Smyth said.

The truck was custom built to specifications given for its cab design, cabinetry layout and compartment space.

Its main feature is a 105-foot ladder, which enables firefighters to access all of the tall structures in their district, including the Jiffy Mix silos. The old aerial ladder was 85 feet long and firefighters would have to call neighboring departments for assistance when they found themselves in need of a longer ladder.

Technology has come a long way in the last 30 years, Smyth said. He compared the old truck to the new one as “driving a Ford Pinto and then going into a new Cadillac."

"The maneuverability and handling is much easier,” he said. “A lot of it is computer controlled. There's a camera in the back so whoever is backing up the truck has a visual that makes it easier."

A computer also controls much of the aerial device itself to make sure it is set up properly and won't tip over. The new truck can also carry 100 more gallons of water than the old truck.

Smyth adds that the creature comforts such as functioning heat and air conditioning and an enclosed cab "make it much more comfortable in January when it's 10 below zero."

The new aerial ladder will come in handy when it comes to protecting some of the area’s newer housing.

"With a lot of the new houses, the pitch of the roof is so steep you can't go up on the roof safely without some aerial device," Smyth said. "People want the cathedral ceiling and it throws the pitch of the roof off."

Smyth said the collapse potential is also greater in new homes due to more lightweight construction being used. "They're not built like the old houses from the 1950s where we had three times the amount of time before a roof will actually collapse," he said. "Some of the senior high-rises and complexes are two to three stories now, and we need the tools to get people out quicker."

The new truck will be the first one out for any fire-related matters within the Chelsea city limits. Last year, the old aerial ladder truck was sent to about 20 fire-related calls.

The aerial ladder truck joins a seven-vehicle fleet which includes three engines, one tanker and two smaller utility vehicles for medical calls. Like most fire departments, a majority of the calls for help are medical in nature, with the rest a combination of fire- and vehicle-related incidents.

Chelsea old fire truck.JPG

The Chelsea Area Fire Authority's old 1976 aerial ladder truck has been sold to a salvage yard since it doesn't meet current firefighting standards.

Laura Blodgett |

The Chelsea Area Fire Authority covers about 120 square miles, including the city of Chelsea; Sylvan, Lima and Lyndon townships; part of Dexter Township, and a portion of Stockbridge and Waterloo.

The department employs 12 full-time members plus a fire chief, and four on-call firefighters.

The department recently sold the old aerial ladder truck to a salvage yard, which will be recycling various parts. That turned out to be the best option, said Chief Jim Payeur, since the truck didn't meet current firefighting standards. The fire authority received a little over $6,000 for the truck and will put that money into the vehicle replacement fund.



Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 10:34 a.m.

Too bad they didn't keep the old one...With all the new technology the new one will be non functional 80% of the time.

Shi Schultz

Thu, Sep 20, 2012 : 1:52 a.m.

I don't think anyone can even call that "art". I don't even know what that is or represents, one of Ann Arbors notorious wastes of money. They need to install a plaque on it to let people know it's actually meant to be there, and not a piece of construction debris left from the renovation.


Wed, Sep 19, 2012 : 10:02 p.m.

Chelsea residents made a good decision fo people protection. That truck is as pretty as a piece of artwork. It's even better looking than the piece of "art" outside of Ann Arbor City Hall.