New Albany and Plain Township residents soon will see a new set of wheels intended to help keep them safe.

The Plain Township Fire Department has purchased a new ladder truck to replace its 1997 model.

The $1.3 million truck was paid for through a combination of township levies and tax-increment-financing district money the township receives from New Albany, said fire Chief John Hoovler. It didn't require additional financing or sale of any additional bonds, he said.

The new truck will go into service later this month, said Ben Collins, the Plain Township administrator.

Renovating the old truck would have cost the township anywhere from $700,000 to $1 million, Hoovler said.

Although the truck's outward appearance wasn't bad, the vehicle had corrosion and rust damage, he said. If the department had held onto the truck any longer, it would not have been able to pass annual safety inspections, he said. A company called Mistras Group, which is certified to test ladder trucks and ground ladders, conducts the tests, he said.

"Refurbishing the old truck wasn't really an option," Collins said.

In addition to the ladder truck, the fire department has one engine rescue vehicle, a backup engine rescue vehicle, three medical units and a grass truck, which is a small pickup truck with a water tank that is used to fight grass fires, Hoovler said.

The township has a replacement schedule for its fire department's vehicles, Collins said.

The next vehicle that's scheduled to be replaced would be a 2003 medic unit, which would cost about $275,000. That replacement is scheduled for 2020, he said.

A ladder truck typically is used to shoot large streams of water up and over rather than through a window of a building, Hoovler said. The vehicle is used for large fires, he said.

The new ladder truck can carry six firefighters; the old vehicle could accommodate only four, he said.

Though the ladder's vertical reach is beneficial for fighting fires and for rescue, extending the ladder horizontally also helps first responders during water rescues, Collins said.

The truck's ladder is 100 feet, the same length as the old ladder truck, Hoovler said. But because the new ladder is in five sections instead of four, the truck more easily can negotiate turns and tighter spaces than the old truck, he said.

The increased maneuverability should be useful for the multiple roundabouts in New Albany, but it does not decrease the need for residents to help emergency vehicles passing through traffic circles, Collins said.

In late January and early February, fire department officials said they were having difficulty with New Albany drivers stopping in the middle of roundabouts when an emergency vehicle tried to pass.

At the time, Assistant Chief Jack Rupp said that single-lane roundabouts always have presented a bit of a challenge for emergency vehicles. But if vehicles stop in a roundabout when an emergency vehicle is trying to pass instead of proceeding through the roundabout and then pulling to the side of the road, "there's no place for us to go," he said.

"The roundabout issue involved vehicles stopping in the travel lane within the roundabout, leaving no room for the ladder truck to pass because the roundabout is only a single lane," Collins said. "The roundabout issue is not directly related to the maneuverability of the ladder truck. The shorter wheelbase of the new ladder truck provides great maneuverability that will aid in navigating roundabouts, but not if vehicles stop within the roundabout."

The new truck also has a black-and-red color scheme to set it apart from other fire departments' vehicles, Hoovler said. The rest of the fire department's vehicles, which are all red, will be updated to the new color scheme, either through replacement or maintenance.

The Plain Township Fire Department serves all of unincorporated Plain Township and the city of New Albany within Franklin County, Collins said.

The area includes about 4,000 households and about 13,000 residents, he said.

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