Firefighters in a Bind After Ladder Truck Recall

By KEN de la BASTIDE, The Herald Bulletin | November 13, 2014

Recalls of passenger, trucks and SUVs have become a common occurrence, but the city of Anderson, Ind., has been unable to use one of two fire department ladder trucks as a result of a recall.

The Anderson Fire Department purchased a 100-foot ladder truck in 2004 from Ohio-based Sutphen Corp. Last November, the company issued a recall notice because the aerial ladder could break loose, with sections of the ladder sliding back into the framework.

Brent Holland, assistant chief with the Anderson Fire Department, said several firefighters around the country have been injured when the extended ladder malfunctioned.

“We’re not using it,” Holland told The Herald Bulletin referring to the city’s truck. “Cities around the country are facing difficult times because of the recall.”

Holland said Sutphen has been working on how to repair the problem, but it remains unresolved.

Ashley Hopper, Anderson city attorney, said the city continues to look into the matter and is exploring all options.

“The company is working to fix the problem,” she said. “We’re awaiting the price to rent a ladder truck. We’re working with Sutphen on an interim solution.”

Anderson has two 100-foot ladder trucks, with one remaining in service.

“We haven’t had a catastrophic industrial fire where we’ve needed more than one of the ladder trucks,” Holland said. “We would have to rely on mutual aid.”

The Chesterfield/Union Township Fire Department and the Fishers Fire Department have trucks that could assist AFD.

Last week, the Anderson Board of Public Safety agreed to have the department request quotes on the purchase of a new ladder truck. Holland said the department has funds available in the 2014 budget and in the 2015 city budget.

“We have been talking about buying a new ladder truck,” Holland said.

Bruce Dunham, chairman of the board of safety said the city should be able to get the recalled ladder truck repaired and back in operation.

Sutphen Corp. 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.

The recall notice in November said ball bearings could seize up, causing the cables running over them to chafe and fail.

Sutphen notified fire departments that the vehicles can be used as pumpers but that the ladder must not be extended until the vehicle is inspected.

“At this time, our priority is the safety of our firefighters,” company officials said in a press release.

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