Upper Arlington News

Fire-truck recall affects city's Ladder 72

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Upper Arlington Fire Division officials continued to await word this week about when firefighters could resume full use of the aerial ladder on one of their fleet's primary trucks.

A possible problem with aerial devices on various models of Dublin-based Sutphen Corp.'s fire trucks led to a Tuesday, July 22, recall that, for now, has grounded the mechanical ladder on UAFD's Ladder 72.

Sutphen instructed customers to stop using aerial devices on five models of the company's fire trucks until further notice following a reported incident July 22, in which three firefighters in Hall County, Ga., were injured after an apparent mechanical failure caused a five-section ladder to unexpectedly retract.

Locally, the Upper Arlington Fire Division, as well as fire departments in Columbus, Worthington and Genoa and Orange townships, each operate trucks impacted by the recall.

Upper Arlington's Ladder 72 was purchased in 2012 and is the only vehicle in the fleet capable of extending an aerial ladder up to 100 feet.

UAFD Public Information Officer Dan Kochensparger said Tuesday, July 29, that Sutphen has sent letters to all departments impacted by the recall, instructing them not to use the aerial ladders while manned by personnel. The company said departments can use hoses on fully expanded ladders if no personnel are on the ladders.

Kochensparger said the UAFD is still determining if it will use Ladder 72's expanded ladder without personnel. He added Sutphen was continuing its investigation of the accident this week.

"They're continuing to do their investigation and they've informed us they'll take corrective measures with no costs to us," he said.

Kochensparger said last week the pump, hose and ground ladders on the SPH 100 model Ladder 72 still would be used in response to fires, search-and-rescue calls and other emergencies.

While the division awaits further information from Sutphen, Kochensparger said, it has worked out contingency plans with fire departments in Norwich and Washington townships, should aerial ladders be needed in Upper Arlington.

Additionally, he said, the Columbus Division of Fire was able to "switch out" aerial devices from reserve trucks in its fleet and can provide aerial ladder services to Upper Arlington.

"We immediately changed our procedures, such that we told our firefighters not to use the aerial ladder portion of the truck," Kochensparger said. "Because of who we normally run with (through mutual-aid responses) and the fact Columbus and Worthington were affected, we had to (implement) some contingency plans.

"If we need that capability, we still have people close by that can help us."

According to the Gainesville Times in Gainesville, Ga., as of late last week investigators continued to examine the scene of the accident, as well as cables and pulleys on the truck the injured firemen were using during a training exercise.

That article also noted one of the firefighters was recovering from back surgery as a result of his fall, and the other two were awaiting surgeries.

The UAFD began using the $920,000 Ladder 72 in late 2012 after buying the vehicle new from Sutphen. The division's costs for the truck were reduced to $770,000 after it traded in a 2001 model.

Since that time, the UAFD has reported no problems with Ladder 72, and the truck was recognized by Firehouse.com for innovative designs, including its turning radius and emissions systems.

"We did, just (July 23), extend our ladder out just to give ourselves a visual inspection and we didn't see any problems," Kochensparger said.

On Nov. 11, 2013, Sutphen recalled 156 aerial platform trucks in model years 2000 through 2011 because the ladder could retract unexpectedly, according to documents filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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