Elevated homes alter fire engine purchase plan

Storms Sandy and Irene have had yet another impact on the city: The storms are leading the Fire Department toward the purchase of a special fire truck with an aerial lift to better battle fires at homes that will be elevated along the shoreline.

Fire officials had planned to buy a new fire truck. Last year, the Board of Aldermen approved bonding for $518,600 to buy a pumper truck to replace a 1991 Pierce Pumper that is aging.

In December, however, the aldermen voted to bond an additional $250,000 to buy a quint truck, which has several advantages over a pumper, including its aerial lift.

“The fire department’s future challenges will be the [elevating] of many of our shorefront homes,” fire Chief Douglas Edo wrote in a Nov. 1 letter to the mayor and other city officials. “Some 250 homes are currently under construction now with an additional 450 homes in the years to come. We anticipate that all future renovations and new construction will have to be [elevated] as well.”

Building regulations call for homes that were substantially damaged by the storms to be elevated to protect them from future flooding conditions.

A quintuple combination pumper, or quint, is a fire apparatus that serves the dual purpose of an engine and a ladder truck, according to an online source. The name quint comes from the Latin prefix quinque, meaning five, and refers to the five elements of a quint: pump, water tank, fire hose, aerial device, and ground ladders.

The city has one quint now, which serves the west side of Milford.

“We believe that the quints are quicker to access these homes and make an effective window rescue if needed,” Edo wrote in his letter to city officials.

Elevated  homes can be 40 to 45 feet high, Fire Department spokesman Greg Carman said. The 75-foot ladder on the quint will also allow firefighters to get onto the roofs of these higher buildings when fires require roof ventilation.

The other fire trucks in Milford carry a 10-foot folding ladder used for small, tight places, a 14-foot straight ladder, which is also called a roof ladder because of the hooks that fold out to grab the top of the roof, and finally a 28-foot extension ladder. Engine 6 carries a 35-foot ladder instead of the normal 28-foot one because of the taller houses at Point Beach.

The city’s tower truck has a ladder that stretches about 110 feet, intended for reaching excessive heights, but it is too large to maneuver along some of the beachfront streets, Edo said.

Board of Aldermen Chairman Phil Vetro said the request makes sense with so many houses being elevated. He and other board members saluted Edo and the department for being forward-thinking. The board approved the request for additional funds unanimously.

Carman said bids went out last week for the truck. It could be a year before the department takes possession of the new fire apparatus, he added.