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Wheeling Fire Department’s New Ladder 1 Truck Delivered

Photo by Scott McCloskey

WHEELING — After more than a year on the assembly line, the Wheeling Fire Department’s new, custom-built aerial truck rolled into town this week.

Firefighters took part in training sessions over several days this week to familiarize themselves with the newest addition to the fleet. The $1.2-million ladder truck, custom built by the Sutphen Corporation, is nearly 12 feet high and just shy of 47 feet long. It will be temporarily housed at the Wheeling Island Fire Station before moving permanently to WFD headquarters in Center Wheeling.

“We’re very pleased,” Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron said. “I know there’s been a lot of work put into that by the staff at the fire department. It’s going to be an excellent addition to the department.”

Council approved the purchase in October 2019 through Community Development Block Grant funds.

The truck took nearly a year to custom build. As with everything over the past year, COVID-related delays slowed the process, but the new ladder truck was delivered on Tuesday, and training commenced throughout the week since then.

The ladder truck is equipped with a 100-foot aerial platform, a 300-gallon tank and LED lighting features. The truck can pump 2,000 gallons of water per minute.

WFD Chief Larry Helms explained that the new truck will become Ladder 1. The aerial truck formerly known by that name will then become Ladder 6, the new backup. The former backup truck known as Ladder 6 is a 1973 model housed at Station 10 in Edgwood. Helms said that truck will move out of service completely.

This is the progression of rotating equipment, the fire chief said.

“For what we do, it’s a necessary evil to make sure we have serviceable equipment on our front line,” he said. “It will give us the ability to have a very well-equipped, very functional secondary unit.”

While the old backup has served the city well for many years, it is approaching the half-century mark.

“Obviously the technology has greatly improved since 1973,” Helms said. “With the new Ladder 1 in the fleet, it will give us the ability to have a very functional aerial apparatus not only for headquarters, but whenever we have a larger fire, when we bring in Ladder 6 to be the backup, we’ll have a ladder truck that is equipped and ready to function in nearly the same capacity of the frontline unit.”

There are some features on the department’s new truck that are different from the 2007 model, Helms explained.

“It has a remotely controlled nozzle on the bucket,” Helms said, “so if we’re in a situation where we’re set up and don’t have anybody in the bucket right away and we need to protect their exposure, we can swing the boom around and operate the nozzle from the ground

“Some of the equipment will be more modernized, and those things have to be learned, and we have to practice with it before it’s put into service.”

Over the course of the next month and a half, fire department personnel are expected to continue training on the new truck, equipping it with all of the necessary gear and getting it ready for service. The department hopes to have it in service by mid-March.

“Expectations have been met,” Helms said, “and everybody is happy with the unit that has been delivered.”

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