The $2 million, first-of-its-kind for Gravenhurst fire truck has arrived and is already in service.
The Gravenhurst Fire Department’s Fire Chief Jared Cayley says what makes the machine so special is the 100-foot ladder. “It has so much versatility,” he says. “It offers so much to the community. Everything from technical rescue to ariel water rescue to ariel rescue. The list is endless. It’s an incredible investment to community safety.”
The truck was “pushed in” during a ceremony Thursday at the fire department’s main station on Harvie St.
“Many years ago, fire engines were pulled by horses,” Cayley explains. “Horses didn’t have a reverse like a fire truck, so in order to get the engine back into the fire hall, firefighters had to push it in.”
Eight firefighters were chosen to push the truck into the station. However, unlike long ago when fire trucks were much smaller and, therefore, lighter, Cayley says this new machine weighs close to 40 tonnes so Deputy Fire Chief Todd Clapp sat in the driver’s seat and helped the ceremonial pushers lighten their load. “It’s a matter of department pride,” Cayley says.
While the truck was “pushed in” Thursday and went into service immediately after, the department got its hands on it months ago and has been busy training. Cayley adds all firefighters will be trained to operate it, just not drive it. He says there are currently six people trained to drive it with another six set to become masters in the coming months.
Pierce Manufacturing, who built the truck, sent a trainer from their headquarters in Wisconsin to help Cayley, Tracy Jocque, the department’s Training Officer, and three others become “master trainers.”
Cayley notes that only a “handful” of drivers are able to drive all the department’s vehicles because of its “extensive” driver training program.
“Almost 90 percent of the calls we have, it’s going to be used on,” Cayley explains, adding it could also be used to support other departments in Muskoka and Simcoe County. When everyone is trained, he says the 100-foot ladder can be extended and the truck can be stabilized within two minutes.
With the delivery of the new truck, Cayley says it means firefighters won’t need to use ground ladders as often, which makes doing their job safer. Firefighters can also ditch their heavy self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), if necessary. Cayley says the basket has mask fittings which are pumped with air supplied by the truck. He explains getting rid of the SCBA makes them lighter and gives them more room to operate in the basket.
Cayley adds that the ladder can go 15 degrees below the truck. He says that, even when the ladder is fully extended, the truck doesn’t need to be on perfectly level ground because it has an auto-levelling system.
“We haven’t even scratched the service with what this truck can do,” Cayley says.
Gravenhurst Mayor Paul Kelly has been part of the discussion since the start. First, as a councillor with the District of Muskoka and now as the head of council. “Not everyone agreed on the concept of having a ladder truck because it was not cheap, however, looking back on it now, I think most, if not all, of council agree it’s a good decision,” Kelly adds.
“It’s been a long, drawn-out process,” he says.
“I think the fire department deserves a lot of kudos for following through on this,” says Kelly, adding most volunteer firefighters work a second job. “To give them a safer environment where they have a machine they know they can count on is worth its weight in gold,” he says.
“It’s the result of a lot of work from a lot of great people,” Cayley says about the years-long process. “I just get the benefit of being the chief when it’s here.”