Upper Arlington News

No word from Sutphen Corp.

UA fire truck's aerial device remains grounded


More than a month after Dublin-based Sutphen Corp. told fire departments to temporarily remove aerial devices for certain models from service, the ladder on one of the Upper Arlington Fire Division's primary trucks remains grounded.

UAFD Public Information Officer Dan Kochensparger last week said his division has received no word about when, or if, it might be permitted to redeploy the aerial device on Ladder 72.

"We're just waiting to hear something official," he said. "It continues to be a waiting game for us."

The mechanical ladder on the truck was grounded July 22 after Sutphen instructed customers to stop using aerial devices on five models of the company's fire trucks until further notice, following a reported incident that day in Hall County, Ga.

According to reports, three firefighters in Hall County were injured after an apparent mechanical failure caused a five-section ladder to unexpectedly retract.

In the wake of that incident, Hall County Fire Chief Dave Kimbrell was relieved of command over fire services but retained his post as Emergency Management Agency director, according to the Gainesville Times in Gainesville, Ga.

That paper also reported the National Transportation Safety Board was expected to begin its investigation of the Hall County incident Sept. 2.

As a result of Sutphen's instructions, aerial devices on trucks operated by fire departments in Upper Arlington, Columbus and Worthington as well as Genoa and Orange townships, were affected.

ThisWeek Upper Arlington News repeatedly was instructed by a Sutphen representative to direct all inquiries regarding the aerial devices to Ken Creese, director of sales and marketing with the company.

As of ThisWeek's press time, five calls placed over the past two weeks to Creese were not returned.

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.

The department began using the $920,000 vehicle in late 2012 after buying it 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.

While the aerial ladder remains out of service, the pump, hose and ground ladders on the SPH 100 truck can be used in response to fires, search-and-rescue calls and other emergencies.

Immediately after the July 22 instructions from Sutphen, the Upper Arlington department worked out contingency plans with fire departments in Norwich and Washington townships for equipment, should aerial ladders be needed in Upper Arlington, Kochensparger said.

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.

"There's been no change in our operations procedures," Kochensparger said. "The (mutual aid) system is working."