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Durango firefighters test $1.2 million ladder truck

‘Tower 1’ can reach 100 feet, which will help protect hotels and downtown buildings
Durango Fire Protection District's newest ladder truck, called Tower 1, can reach 100 feet high, which is enough to help protect new hotels and buildings on Main Avenue that have bump-outs in front of them. The fire department demonstrated the truck’s capabilities Wednesday at Station 1 in Bodo Industrial Park. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

As the city of Durango grows – especially in height – the Durango Fire Protection District is doing what it can to stay on top of potential hazards.

The fire department this week tested its newest tool for dousing flames and saving lives – a 100-foot ladder truck that can reach the city’s tallest buildings and extend over downtown bump-outs. The ladder truck was set up for about an hour Wednesday morning in the 1000 block of Main Avenue so firefighters could test the equipment and see how it works with the bump-outs.

The ladder truck weighs about 75,000 pounds and is 17 feet wide when fully set up. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“It is valuable to do this test while the bump outs are still in place so we can see the setup and help us develop options to maintaining emergency access with the addition of the outside seating on Main Avenue,” said Fire Marshal Karola Hanks, in a news release from the city.

Several large hotels have been built in recent years in Durango, and more are in the pipeline, said Fire Chief Hal Doughty. They include Holiday Inn Express, La Quinta Inn, Spring Hill Suites by Marriott, a dual hotel planned for the 400 block of East Second Avenue and a new hotel planned in the Three Springs area, he said.

Fire departments DFPD’s size, serving a community such as Durango, are recommended to have four ladder trucks, based on Insurance Services Office ratings, Doughty said. But the fire department had only two ladder trucks prior to purchasing its newest vehicle, he said. And they reach only 75 feet high.

“With new hotels coming in, and the issues associated with that, we kind of had to get a ladder truck that could get us to the top of those,” Doughty said.

The new truck, named Tower 1, weighs about 75,000 pounds. It is 9 feet 6 inches wide in “driving mode,” but when setup, the outriggers extend 4 more feet on both sides, meaning it takes up about 17 feet of space.

Firefighters wanted to see how that worked on Main Avenue with bump-outs, Doughty said. The bump-outs also prevent equipment from getting as close to the buildings, at least on initial attack, limiting accessibility. The larger ladder truck helps solve that problem, he said.

Scott Gallagher, fire training captain with Durango Fire Protection District, controls the ladder from the bucket on the department’s new ladder truck Wednesday at Station 1 in Bodo Industrial Park. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The truck cost $1.2 million, which “was actually a deal,” Doughty said. Prior to purchasing it, the truck was used for demonstrations, meaning it traveled the country to be marketed to other fire departments. When the company was done using it for that purpose, it sold the truck to DFPD for a discounted price, he said.

Doughty said impact fees help offset the costs of purchasing new equipment, which means existing residents don’t get stuck footing the bill for new development.

The ladder truck can be used to rescue people from tall buildings, put firefighters on rooftops and to spray water on top of buildings.

shane@durangoherald.com

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