Archive for Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ladder’s failure hinders effort

Fire chief says defect underscores frailty of firefighting fleet

When firefighters went to raise their 100 foot ladder above the burning house this morning, they were met with strong resistance. Despite several attempts, the hydraulic ladder on the 10-year-old truck would not move.

July 31, 2008


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Indiana Street House Fire

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Lawrence Douglas County Fire and Medical responded to a multiple alarm house fire in the 1000 block of Indiana Street about 5:15 Thursday morning.

Efforts to fight Thursday morning's fire at 1005 Ind. were seriously hampered by the failure of a fire truck that Chief Mark Bradford had repeatedly warned city leaders about.

When firefighters sought to raise the 100-foot ladder on the department's 10-year-old aerial truck, it simply wouldn't move.

"It obviously did have an impact on our fire attack," Bradford said. "It was significantly delayed in getting large volumes of water on the fire."

Bradford said he did not believe the house could have been saved even if the ladder truck had been operational, but he said the failure showed how frail the city's fleet had become.

Bradford has been sounding alarms about the condition of the city's fleet for the past two years. Bradford this summer asked that up to $1.3 million be placed in the 2009 budget to purchase a new ladder truck for the city.

But that request was not included in City Manager David Corliss' recommended budget. Corliss said he could not recommend approval of the purchase unless city commissioners were willing to increase the city's property tax rate.

Thus far, a majority of commissioners have been staunch opponents of any property tax increase. And Thursday's equipment failure, it appears, did not change that position.

Instead, City Commissioner Mike Amyx said the incident shows the importance of voters approving a proposed three-tenths of a cent sales tax increase in November. That would provide $500,000 a year for fire truck replacement.

"We realize we have an aging fleet, and we know we have to come up with a way to pay for it," Amyx said. "The sales tax is the best way we can figure out right now."

The city is in the process of purchasing approximately $2 million in new fire equipment this year because it was determined the purchases could be made without increasing the mill levy. Future purchases, though, need to come from sales taxes, commissioners have said.

Bradford began expressing concern about the condition of the city's fire fleet shortly after he was appointed chief in November 2005. Over the past two years, Bradford has told commissioners that the condition of the fleet is at a "critical state" and that many pieces of equipment are "falling apart."

For decades, the city has not had a policy of setting aside a certain amount of money each year to replace fire vehicles. That is different from what is done for police and ambulance vehicles, which do have annual replacement programs.

The sales tax proposal marks the first serious effort to create an annual replacement fund for fire trucks, both Corliss and Bradford said. But now there is concern about whether the program will be too little, too late.

"We have recommended a vehicle replacement program over time," Bradford said. "The problem is we don't have a lot of time, and this is an example of that."

Worries about ladder trucks

The city has two 100-foot ladder trucks - one on active duty and another in reserve.

The active-duty truck is a 1998 model with 5,000 engine hours and has a city maintenance score of 31 points. The reserve truck is a 1986 model with 7,000 engine hours and has a city maintenance score of 51 points.

Any vehicle with a city maintenance score greater than 30 is recommended for replacement, according to the city's vehicle rating system.

After Thursday's ladder failure - which is still being investigated - Fire Chief Mark Bradford placed the reserve truck on active duty. The ladder trucks are the main piece of equipment used to perform rescues at multistory buildings.


geekin_topekan 9 years, 9 months ago

Thank Compton and Fritzell for the ladder failure?

igby 9 years, 9 months ago

This is major BS, the fire chief failed too see that the trucks hydro systems was serviced properly. If the vale stuck and the latter would not raise it's a mechanical problem that should have been inspected on a regular basis. Hydro parts fail all the time, seals leak, control vales stick and hoses blow . A 10 year old truck is really not that old!

TopJayhawk 9 years, 9 months ago

It seems like a short life span to me. Can't they just change the motors that run the ladder out or something? I mean everytime my car breaks, I don't run out and buy a new one. And ladder trucks are how many hundreds of thousands of dollars? I thought they were that expensive because, like military equipment, they were built to last. The Topkea FD is also fighting with the city of Top. They are calling in sick all the time, and last week, BOTH of our ladder trucks were disabled at the same time. HMMMM. Quite the coincidence don't you think?

Sigmund 9 years, 9 months ago

No problem, the City of Lawrence spends $2,600,000 per year, year after year, on empTy buses. You people are never satisfied.

lawrbam 9 years, 9 months ago

NotasquishheadAre you really proposing that they didn't raise the ladder on purpose to make a point about the budget? Maybe you would risk lives to prove a point, but I don't think the fire dept would, political BS doesn't matter when it comes to issues of life and death.And I have toured the station at 19th and Iowa. Sure it's big, but its not all fire station, most of it is admin and conference rooms that are used by the whole city (not just fire). What extras do they have? Chairs? A stove? Maybe we should take away those single beds they have, no reason to have a well rested firefighter that has to work for 24 hours in a row. Think of that the next time you're sitting at work playing on the internet.

trollkiller 9 years, 9 months ago

Stop picking on these guys. When none of these firemen on the ladder truck could get it up, there's a serious problem

Sigmund 9 years, 9 months ago

"City Commissioner Mike Amyx said the incident shows the importance of voters approving a proposed three-tenths of a cent sales tax increase in November. That would provide $500,000 a year for fire truck replacement."Another installment of the LJW award winning series, "Chad Lawhorn Touts New City Taxes!" Part 43, "An Offer You Can't Refuse: Vote for more taxes or your house might just burn down!"Again, we were led to believe the new taxes were for roads and the empTy? Now pay more taxes or we will let your house burn down. This is little more than a mob shake down, a "protection racket."After City Debt and Police, Fire and Medical is the largest percentage spent by City taxpayers.City Debt $13.42 - 29.00%Police $7.41 - 16.01%Fire and Medical $6.82 - 14.74%Library $6.24 - 13.49%Park and Recreation $2.72 - 5.88%Public Transit $2.24 - 4.84%Health Insurance $1.91 - 4.13%Street Maintenance $1.74 - 3.76%Outside Agencies $0.71 - 1.53%Planning Department $0.61 - 1.32%Building Maintenance $0.48 - 1.04%Technical Support $0.47 - 1.02%City Legal Services $0.36 - 0.78%Municipal Court $0.35 - 0.76%Street Lights $0.32 - 0.69%City Managers Office $0.29 - 0.63%Human Relations $0.15 - 0.32%City Commission $0.03 - 0.06% empTy is sucking resources out of police, fire, library, parks, roads, health insurance et. al. Every part of the City's budget suffers, period. This $2,600,000 per year, year after year, for the empTy is a waste of resources.So now I guess now the City is threatening the citizens with no fire protection unless we approve more taxes. Increasing taxes sucks money out of the local private economy. Increase taxes by a million or two and no matter which pocket, the right or the left, the front or the rear, blue jeans or the business suits, it is a million or two less to spend with local businesses.Vote no for any new taxes and then vote against all incumbents in the next general election.

lawrbam 9 years, 9 months ago

Good job internet brigade, you have solved the problem. Poor maintenance is surely to blame. It seems like every time I drive by the station in the mourning they are outside testing their equipment, but this must be an illusion. Maybe a hologram or other expensive device used to trick the city into feeling safe.I am just glad that the upstanding citizens on this board have taken the time to go and check their maintenance records and have come back to give a report.

Bob Forer 9 years, 9 months ago

I find it hard to believe that the ladder failure was caused by lack of maintenance. Has anyone ever visited a local fire house. They are immaculate. Moreover, Chief Bradford is a fairly astute guy. If he had any concerns that the failure could in anyway be attributed to "lack of maintenance," does anyone honestly believe he would be stupid enough to mention the failure to the press. This is Lawrence, Kansas, not Hope, Arkansas. For those casting aspersions on the Fire Department, please, give me a break.

David Klamet 9 years, 9 months ago

10 years doesn't seem that old to me. Especially for equipment that isn't used that often. I'm not sure what the expected life for fire equipment is, but 10 years seems awfully short. Especially for equipment that gets only infrequent use.I find it difficult to believe that this failure wasn't due to lack of regular testing and maintenance.How many times does a ladder like that get raised in 10 years? Twice a month? That would be 240 times in 10 years. Is that all we can expect for a service life?How many miles does a firetruck get in a year?--how many gallons does a pumper pump?

KsTwister 9 years, 9 months ago

I'll bet I know a couple of $16K speed bumps that could have fixed that ladder. Lawrence has become incredibly stupid. Infrastructure first and foremost.

NotASquishHead 9 years, 9 months ago

Looks like LDCFM should have been purchasing trucks over the last few years, not building new stations. If you haven't seen the Tashma Hall at 19th/Iowa you should stop by sometime. I think all of the extras in that station alone would have paid for a new ladder truck. I get so sick and tired of LDCFM getting everything they want rather than having to adjust like the rest of the city. They always propose one budget but then come up with "emergencies" during the year requiring large amounts of money. Tighten the belts like the rest of us. Also, I'd sure like to know what happened to the ladder truck between the morning equipment test and the fire call. Sure seems ironic the truck failed in the time of need... during budget prep.... hmmm....

Richard Heckler 9 years, 9 months ago

Wake up taxpayers! Developers create huge expenses for the taxpayers! New development is not paying for itself...taxpayers are funding new development! That's backwards.How many new fire trucks do taxpayers want to continue funding? How many more are on the replacement list? The developers/chamber have asked the city commission not to increase but decrease property taxes yet they increase expenses for the taxpayers? Consequently sales taxes and user fees are increased( as we know) to cover the loss in property tax revenue.The T does not cost taxpayers as much as constant new development does not by a long shot. Why taxpayers do not understand that is beyond me. Our taxes have been increased numerous times over the past 25 years due to new development. Each time the city/county grows it adds more and more expense to the city/county tax bills. Isn't time developers paid for new fire engines,fire stations,schools,installation and maintenance of all water and sewer lines,new sewage treatment plants and more police cars plus officers? After all it is the developers who want new projects not the taxpayers.If residential growth paid for itself and was financially positive, we would not be in a budget crunch. But with increased numbers of houses you have increased demand on services, and historically the funding of revenues generated by single-family housing does not pay for the services, they require from a municipality.Developers is a substantially expensive budget item. They want roads and annexation. More streets = more cars = more people = more tax increases. Developers plans that consistently increase our tax liabilities instead of promoting tax reductions IS my concern!Over built retail does not generate more revenue because there only so many retail dollars available in Lawrence,KansasOver stock of New Industrial Sites considering many 12-14 acre sites are now available cost too many tax dollars for new services sewage treatment plants are too expensiveHistorically revenues generated by residential housing do not pay for the services they require from a municipality thus increased taxes to cover the cost of maintaining: * water and sewer lines streets public schools fire & emergency med stations law enforcement manpower snow removal cross walksTraffic Control*ParksForget tax dollars,increased taxes and user fees. Legislate impact fees on new development to cover the entire cost of all new development. Developers projects cost considerably more to maintain than a "Better T" could ever cost the taxpayers. We're talking apples and asphalt.

OnlyTheOne 9 years, 9 months ago

Thank you Toe. "Seems to me the fire department is diverting attention away from their lack of attention to maintaining their equipment. A complete audit of the fire department's maintenance program is in order."I said pretty much the same thing a month ago when all this hubub about "we gotta have new equipment now" was raised. Looks to me like somebody isn't doing their job - every piece of equipment on those trucks should be tested weekly. You don't let a piece of automotive equipment set without use for who knows how long then expect it to work perfectly. I can't believe this was an "intentional" failure but there's something wrong somewhere.

labmonkey 9 years, 9 months ago many roundabouts could have been done without? How many "speed cushioning" devices could be done without. Yes, a truck should last more than 10 years and an audit should be done....but you would expect that money should go to police and fire before any more BS gets funded by the taxpayers without their approval.

Sigmund 9 years, 9 months ago

"The sales tax proposal marks the first serious effort to create an annual replacement fund for fire trucks, both Corliss and Bradford said."Really, I thought the sales tax proposals were for the empTy and to pave the streets? Dump the empTy and put the money to more productive use.

Yabut 9 years, 9 months ago

All city vehicles are maintained by the city garage. Aren't maintnenace records public? How many times has this ladder or any other fire apparatus been down for maintenance, and for how long?

LA_Ex 9 years, 9 months ago

Everyone keeps talking about how big the fire station is off of Iowa so I figured I'd look and see how it compares to the one on Harper and the new one off Wakarusa on Google maps. I gotta say, they look to be about the same size. It is a little bigger but I think they said more firemen work out of that station than all the others. I toured the station when it first opened and the part closer to 19th street is all of their Administrative offices and a couple of conference rooms. I remember them saying that all the other city departments would be using those too. They did have more garage space but that was because they house different kinds of trucks.

killjoy 9 years, 9 months ago

THe speed bumps and roundabouts caused the problem. Fire everybody involved!!!

nekansan 9 years, 9 months ago

"People jump out of 2nd story windows because it's f'ing HOT and perhaps that the fire has spread faster to an occupied area than emergency crews can arrive and deploy a ladder to. Did you ever think about that? Given the choice of burning or jumping:I'll bet on gravity."Exactly my point. The time it takes to deploy a big extension ladder from a truck is not trivial. However, showing up with a pickup and a couple of plain old $200 extension ladders might help prevent these injuries. In every major fire in Lawrence in the past few years there have been people killed or seriously injured on the second floor of buildings. I'm questioning why, with all their training and equipment, the LFD seems to have such a poor record when it comes to protecting lives. There were significant questions raised at the Boardwalk file that the FD did not make efforts to rescue people form the 2nd story of the building. Yet there are storied of LPD officers trying to catch people jumping from the 2dn story while firefighters stood by. From comments in previous stories....."Officers said they twice went to the front of the building and told the fire department to bring ladders to the back to help people out of the windows on the third floor. That never happened. Because the trial was about Jason Rose, no one explained why the ladders and fire department didn't go to the back to help the people."

twaldaisy 9 years, 9 months ago

It's called the CC and CM saying no to the fire dept. budget every year. Bradford has been trying to get equipment for a while now and has been told no. Eventually something has got to give.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 9 months ago

If we cannot afford to maintain existing infrastructure which includes the fire department why on earth do our city commissioners blindly expand the city? Knowing full well firestations will be an expensive part of expansion. The city government is ignoring the older infrastructure across the board yet in the .3 sales tax proposal is a request for new infrastructure. Shouldn't all of the money be spent to take care of what we have? And slow down growth accordingly considering the slowed economic growth?What's up?

BrianR 9 years, 9 months ago

It's a machine, why can't it be made to operate? As someone said, 10 years isn't old. My mower is older than that and the motorcycle I recently sold was 35 and it ran great.

absolutelyridiculous 9 years, 9 months ago

oh debt is actually 29%!!!!!!!!!!!Freaking amazing! Gee, let's make sure we can all be fit through the parks & rec facilities so we can all keep working to pay that off! Freaking socialists!

indythinker 9 years, 9 months ago

Wow. Some of the comments left on here are so completely ridiculous it's actually comical. Consumer are either incredibly misinformed, a consipiracy theorist, or have just had some bad experiences with someone particular in the fire service. Do you actually believe that fire engines show up on car accidents just because "the chief wants everyone to see the trucks in action."? Go to YouTube...I'm sure there that you will find countless videos of nitwit drivers speeding/crashing through accident scenes either injuring or killing law enforcement/fire/medic personnel. It's pretty hard to drive through a fire truck. And, that is only one reason that they are in "action" for everyone to see.As well, does anyone really think anyone on the fire service doesn't care about their equipment working properly? I honestly do not know LDCFM's daily/weekly apparatus checks. But for those of you demanding a thorough investigation of maintenance records, I can assure you they have them on file. I would imagine the ladders on the trucks are operated no less than weekly. And, any number of things could happen without warning- a hydraulic line bursts, a valve fails, a solenoid or a sensor malfunctions...and so on. The very idea that a truck ironiclly failed (at 5 a.m. while the FF's awoke from a dead sleep and clearly conspired on the way to the fire scene-sarcasm here) during budget prep is asinine.Others have even commented about fire trucks having more extension ladders. My comment to that is....get out of your cave and go visit a fire station. They will GLADLY give you a tour of every piece of eqiupment, including a 10 ft. attic ladder, 14 ft. roof ladder, and 24 ft. extension ladder that EVERY fire engine has to carry at a minimum. People jump out of 2nd story windows because it's f'ing HOT and perhaps that the fire has spread faster to an occupied area than emergency crews can arrive and deploy a ladder to. Did you ever think about that? Given the choice of burning or jumping...I'll bet on gravity.I'm done...

OnlyTheOne 9 years, 9 months ago

TheSychophant (Anonymous) says:"I find it hard to believe that the ladder failure was caused by lack of maintenance. Has anyone ever visited a local fire house."But neat appearance isn't the same as operating a piece of equipment. Those things need to be cycled - pump oil to keep hoses and seals soft and oil clean. Grease tends to gum up and can even become close to an adhesive if not "used" once in a while. Bearings can tighten up for the same reason. Operating (testing) is a part of a preventative maintenance program.

Orwell 9 years, 9 months ago

So let them pay for it. I'll pay when my turn comes.Seriously, I forgot how irony-challenged this pace can be.

absolutelyridiculous 9 years, 9 months ago

I love to ride the T and read the LJWorld while I'm getting to work at the hemp clothing store downtown. Sheesh people...I paid 2,600 in property taxes last year for a very average home. You'd think they could maintain the freaking firetruck before someone get's hurt! Bradford was using the media to stir up the public. He should be ashamed of himself. Mark...get the ladder fixed asap...I'm sure you have a maintenance budget don't you? Sure will be cheaper than a new truck.And did you notice in the LJWorld report that 13% of our city taxes go to debt? Crazy people! NO MORE DEBT City Hall.

nekansan 9 years, 9 months ago

Maybe the FD needs to explore creative ways to get the equipment they need. Why not lease the equipment. You better tie the costs to the usage of the equipment without requiring the city to suddenly find the $$ to purchase the equipment outright. The FD has a budget they seem to need to manage it better. I also find it telling that in the high profile major fires that occur in Lawrence there are so many stories about victims that are injured when jumping from 2nd story windows. Maybe they need one less ladder truck and some simple extension ladders that can be on scene faster to get people to safety. Apparently even when the trucks are working they are not being utilized to prevent injuries or potential deaths.

LA_Ex 9 years, 9 months ago

Didn't the Fire Department just go through an extensive audit in order to become accredited? I don't think it's a Fire Department issue, maybe it's a City Garage issue if they are the ones that maintain the fire trucks.

indythinker 9 years, 9 months ago

Hmmm....I see the conspiracy theorists and idiots don't a have a logical response.....

RKLOG 9 years, 9 months ago

That was such a nice looking house too. By the way, I love the T and ride it often. Gets me to class and other places I need to go. If it goes away, I would hope that something similar replaces it.

LA_Ex 9 years, 9 months ago

Orwell, I guess if your house catches fire in the future, the firemen could ride the T to your house to put it out. I think if you asked around, you'd be surprised to find out how many of your friends, family, or co-workers have needed the service of the Fire & Medical Department.

Orwell 9 years, 9 months ago

Why should I pay more for food & clothing so the city can spend it on a fire truck? I haven't had a fire.I'm more likely to ride the T than I am to have a fire, so guess how I'll vote.

Orwell 9 years, 9 months ago

Old Fumblefingers here meant "place," of course.

indythinker 9 years, 9 months ago

NEkansan-Once again I implore you to go visit a fire station. Check out their ladders. I've never seen a fire service ladder that cost $200. It's not that simple....Any ladder used has to be approved by the NFPA. That's not really up for any municipality to decide. In short, fire service ladders are certified for weight and heat. Say, for instance a FD used a ladder that they bought at the local big box retailer. Said ladder was deployed on a fire scene, ascended by a 200lb. FF with another 50lb. of gear on (very realistic). Then FF assists a 180lb. man out the window. On the descent, the ladder fails, sending FF and victim falling to the ground. (even perhaps the victim descended w/o aid and it failed) Lawsuits ensue from both the victim and the FF. It is discovered during the investigation that the being ladder used wasn't NFPA rated. Who do you think is going to win??? (hint: not the city FD) Guess who is going to bear the brunt of the payout?? (hint: the taxpayer). Is that worth the risk of injuring or killing a victim or FF??I could be slighty inaccurate on the details but I believe an NFPA rated 24" extension ladder has to be able to hold a load of 500lbs. when fully extended and horizontal. Any ladder you'd buy at Home Depot would snap like a toothpick like that.As for the comments about the Boardwalk fire... I won't make any judgements for that because neither you nor I were there. I'd hardly consider one major incident like that constitutes a "poor record" though. But, I am well aware of the chaos that surrounds incidents like this and the absolute confusion it creates.

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