Ashland Fire Dept. raises concerns over aerial ladder truck

The fire chief needs a funding response for the department’s 23-year-old aerial ladder truck.
When the call for help blares out at a fire station we want crews to respond with the safest equipment possible.
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 10:53 PM CDT
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ASHLAND, Neb. (WOWT) - When the call for help blares out at a fire station we want crews to respond with the safest equipment possible.

But one fire chief not far from Omaha is raising concern about the age and condition of an aerial ladder. Hoping to avoid an emergency during one Ashland’s fire chief needs a funding response for the department’s 23-year-old aerial ladder truck.

“If we have wind over 35 miles an hour it makes it very unstable. The new one’s rate around 50 miles an hour,” said Chief Mike Meyer, Ashland Fire Dept.

A demonstration gives community leaders an up-close look and feel. If you get a gust of wind this is going to sway. One Ashland firefighter says climbing the ladder adds to the anxiety of fighting a fire.

“Because of the wind, it just shifts a lot. I mean it rocks pretty good when you are up there,” said Chase Barton, Ashland firefighter.

The ladder section still passes certification but that doesn’t carry a lot of weight with a limit of 500 pounds.

“With equipment with bunker gear we’re close to 300 pounds so if we are going up to rescue anybody, hopefully, they are small,” said Meyer.

So, a more modern bucket top like those seen at many fires is what the chief says Ashland Fire needs.

Imagine you’re a 70-year-old and stuck on the roof or upper floor of a retirement home and the only way down is climbing a ladder because there is no bucket on the end.

Hal Ehrlich lives on the top floor.

“A lot of people up there can’t even stand up. They’re in a wheelchair all that kind of stuff and they’re the ones who are going to need it,” said Ehrlich.

But the estimated cost of a new aerial ladder rig is $1.7 million today.

“We’re going to have to get some evaluation of what’s happening dollar wise and what are our needs of what we can do,” said city councilman Chuck Niemeyer.

Campaigning for funds to replace the old aerial truck the fire chief goes right to the top of the ladder.

“How do you attach it? You don’t you leave it six inches from the roof.”

By giving Ashland’s two candidates for mayor a bird’s eye view.

“Applying for and partnering with the fire department and applying for grants is a good way the city could help and be supportive,” said Amanda Roe, candidate for mayor.

“We could bond it out but the idea is hopefully donations will come in and contribute,” said Jim Anderson, candidate for mayor.

A retirement community is an appropriate location to show the aerial ladder’s shortcomings and Chief Mike Meyer says a new rig is a safe investment for firefighters now and in the future.

It’s not just a ladder but water that an aerial carries to a fire scene. But the pump on Ashland’s rig doesn’t pass the certification inspection.

The chief says oil and water leaks make rebuilding the 1999 aerial a waste of taxpayer money. He says it’s hard to find a used one that will fit the needs of the growing community.