LEBANON — Dozens of Lebanon-area residents flexed their muscles Tuesday evening, pushing a 57,500-pound ladder truck into the Oak Street fire station and officially putting the $1 million piece of equipment into public service.
It's a tradition that dates back to when fire equipment was pulled by horses, Chief Gordon Sletmoe said, noting the difficulty of backing a team of horses into the firehouse. The fire district's first brand-new ladder truck was a little easier, and dozens of people accomplished it in short order.
“This is a big deal for many reasons,” Sletmoe said. “This truck is not just a bunch of bolts and rivets. It’s represents a vision, a dream. It represents teamwork and our dedication to protecting our community.”
He added that the concept of buying a new aerial apparatus — the official term for a ladder truck — has been discussed for more than 30 years and began take real shape two years ago.
“I told our truck design team to build it with the long-term needs of the community as the top priority, not its cost,” he said. “Team members went to San Diego and looked at a lot of trucks. We wanted to know what will work best for this community, not only today, but 30 years from now.”
Sletmoe said the team “put in a lot of time and effort, and the end result is incredible. I would put this truck development team up against any I have seen. They did their job so well, the truck manufacturer has taken photos and is using them as suggestions for other fire departments.”
The truck will provide rescue capabilities for the community’s multistory apartment buildings, as well as extensive reach to battle fires at large buildings, such as grocery or department stores.
Fire District Chaplain Brian Gosser asked God to “bless those who worked and dreamed so hard to get this truck and to those who are funding it.” He asked that the truck “function properly and have a long life” and that those who staff it are protected.
Members of the truck design team were Blane Suing, John Tacy, Ron Sipe, Jason Adamson, Brett Kibble, John Dunworth, Desi Barringer and Nick Tyler.
Suing chaired the team and said it was gratifying to see the vehicle put into service.
“Committee members put in long hours and there were many meetings and text messages after hours,” he said. “Chief Sletmoe was very good to work with. He said he didn’t want it to be painted yellow, pink or purple and other than that, we had a free hand to explore.”
Suing said most of the committee members traveled to the truck’s manufacturing plant in Wisconsin to get a hands-on feel for what was being developed based on their long-term research.
The truck was ordered last summer and arrived in Lebanon in April. Finishing touches have been added over recent months.
“This is a clean cab design,” Suing said. “There will be no dirty air packs or turnouts in the cab. When we get done with a fire, we take off our turnouts and air packs, put them in bags and they go into an enclosed area. We won’t be getting into the cab with dirty gear.”
Suing said turnouts and other gear may contain cancer-causing chemicals.
To finalize Tuesday’s ceremony, Lt. Erin Nunes made a radio call, announcing that the new ladder truck was now in service.
The 107-foot Ascendant truck is built on a single-axle chassis. The new line of trucks was introduced by Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton, Wisconsin, in 2017.
Former Brownsville firefighter Jim Jones walked around the truck several times and said it is "awesome. I’m glad to see the community has gotten something this nice.”