Colwood’s fire department has been keeping something very special under wraps for the past couple months.
While the latest addition to the truck fleet won’t be fully operational until spring, firefighters are having a hard time hiding their excitement, especially since crews have often had her out of the work bay while they train.
“I’m hoping to have it in service by March,” said Fire Chief Kerry Smith of the new truck that arrived on Sept. 27, but has spent a lot of time being outfitted with equipment in the service bay. “It’s new technology compared to our 30-year-old snorkel [truck].”
The new Rosenbauer Commander T-Rex tower ladder truck has become commonly known as “Tower 57” around the hall. Crews have been working hard to get Tower 57 operational, but in the meantime, Smith said, “if we were pressed we have some career staff and a few volunteers that could operate it.”
“We’re working some of the bugs out of it with the manufacturer,” he said, adding that it was all part of the warranty process. “It’s about getting it into service.”
While the department has been busy mounting equipment, the real reason the new truck won’t be operational until the spring is because of all of the training that’s involved.
That training is also “the only way to find out these warranty issues,” the chief said, noting they’ve had some minor problems which will be retested to ensure their validity once fixed.
Department training officer and Assistant Chief Greg Chow said training platforms for the new truck are quite complex due to the electronics and emergency backup systems.
The goal is to get all members accustomed to the systems and fully aware of safety and emergency protocols for the vehicle.
But it’s not just new technology that makes Tower 57 stand out.
“It’s not the same as everyone else has,” Chow said. He figured it is the tallest aerial truck on the lower Island, with a working height of 115 feet. The existing truck has a fully extended height of 77 feet.
As Smith said, “We’re trying to stay a little ahead of that game.”
With Colwood council approving high-rise developments in past and more recently, “Waiting until they’re built and then gearing up for it” isn’t feasible for the department, he said.
Chow noted the new truck isn’t just an asset to Colwood’s arsenal, it was purchased with aiding the other West Shore municipalities in mind, since no other neighbouring departments have the same reach.
“It’s not just an aerial truck … It’s dual purpose,” he said.
Tower 57 has a 250-gallon water tank and can pump 1,750 gallons per minute, making it capable of extinguishing fires at new heights. It is also built with crane technology and can stabilize or lift a small vehicle. Chow said the first boom can support or lift up to 8,800 pounds.
Once crews are trained and Tower 57 is fully operational, the old snorkel truck will be decommissioned and put up for sale, Smith said. “To get 30 years out of a piece of equipment is exceptional … It’s done its day.”
Details of the decommissioning haven’t been finalized, but Smith said the old truck could end up in operation somewhere else in North America.