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County fire services put new tower ladder truck in service at Lexington Station

Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) The Lexington County Fire Service put a new tower ladder truck in service Friday afternoon that will run out of the county’s Lexington station on Park Road. In just one glance, even the un-trained can tell that there’s something very different about this truck from the ones we’ve had in service since the inception of the countywide service in the 1970’s; it’s red!

A tower ladder is a very specialized piece of equipment. Like any ladder, it’s designed to reach high places. What makes the tower unique is that it has a basket attached to the end of the ladder where people can work, stand, and even lay in a stretcher device if necessary.

A tower is vastly different than just a ladder truck, or “straight stick," as they are sometimes referred to. A ladder alone requires folks to be in relatively good physical condition, as most firefighters are, because the person that moves from the top of the ladder to the ground has to climb down under his own power. With a tower, you can just stand, sit, or even lay across the basket while the truck moves you up and down.

The new Tower 10 is a Sutphen SP 70, made by the Sutphen company which is located in Ohio. This company has a long, storied history of making high-quality, cutting-edge fire apparatus.

New fire trucks aren’t cheap; this one cost Lexington County $850,000. Some of that expense was defrayed by the liquidation of the county’s old Tower 10, a truck that had a lot of mechanical trouble over its lifetime. Luckily, county officials had bought the old truck under an extended warranty that allowed them to recoup a large portion of its cost which helped finance the new one. It was sort of a “win / win” for the citizens of our area!

While the old truck was much heavier, this one is lighter, more agile, and much more maneuverable. Instead of two rear axles, with 4 more very expensive tires to maintain, the new version only has one axle in the rear. This means it will get in and out of tighter spots better, handle traffic more easily, and is less expensive when it’s time to buy those tires that do wear out.

The new truck is a 70-ft platform, unlike the 80-ft model it replaced. This truck will reach to the top of most of the buildings we have in Lexington County without much problem. If we need anything higher, we are surrounded by towers in both West Columbia and Irmo that have that little extra height. Those are covered through automatic aid agreements that gets them enroute if they're needed.

Our new truck has 500 gallons of water on board, carries 20 gallons of foam concentrate, and can pump as much as 1,500 gallons of water each minute! The water can flow through collapsible, foldable, fire hoses pre-connected to the truck, or up a pipe that runs along the ladderway and out a nozzle under the elevated basket. It can also be quickly connected to a fire hydrant with large hoses to establish a fire flow that will last throughout the fire fight.

The truck is pushed down the road by a 450-hp engine. It has an automatic transmission, an onboard computer, and the latest radios. It is also equipped with headsets and hearing protection for each crew member that allows the firefighters to communicate while driving and protects their ears while their sirens and horns are blaring.

The new emergency lights are also the latest, most efficient, and safest. They use less power than the emergency beacons of old which puts less stress on the truck’s electrical system. Less stress equals less maintenance. They also provide 360° protection so that there are lights on all sides of the truck that make it easier for you to see when it’s responding or on the scene.

When the county organized the fire service in the 1970’s, it was decided that its fleet would be painted white. At that time, it was considered safer, you could see it better in the dark, and it made our trucks unique and easy to pick out on the road. Many of the old firefighters had a huge problem with that at the time, and some never fully accepted it. Today, there are still a few red trucks at Gilbert and some other stations around today.

When this truck was ordered, the new generation of firefighters, some whose parents and even grandparents were firefighters, were polled about what color the trucks should be. After some ideas were floated, the firefighters chose red!

This truck is red with a dark gray upper. It is still unique; Irmo’s have red lower and black uppers like the city of Chicago, but the county’s new scheme stands out from that. Some have even suggested they are garnet and black, obviously a Gamecock fan who's a little color blind; they are RED!

The truck is now in service and running the streets of our county. Watch for it and if it’s running its lights and siren, make sure to get out of the way. Maybe you’ll get lucky enough to see it parked somewhere, or next to you at a stop light. If so, take a quick glance. I really think you’ll like what you see.

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(803) 587-3144

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Call Paul Kirby

(803) 587-3144