RED BANK: NEW LADDER TRUCK IN THE HOUSE

Truck committee chairman Mike Welsh backs the new truck into its home on Mechanic Street Thursday. (Video by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_01Red Bank’s new million-dollar firetruck has arrived.

Borough residents are beginning to see the truck on training runs as volunteer firefighters take it out to get familiar with its high-tech gadgetry and assure themselves that it can navigate all the town’s streets.

“It’s awesome. very maneuverable,” said firefighter Mike Welsh, who headed the committee that selected the truck’s features. He’d just returned from a spin that included narrow, curving Caro Court and Hubbard Park, “and it handled them no problem,” he said.

rb ladder 91 121213 1Ladder 91 approaches its home at the Navesink Hook & Ladder house. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

The truck, housed with the 140-year-old Navesink Hook & Ladder Company on Mechanic Street, replaces a 25-year-old truck whose ladder components failed during routine maintenance in 2011. Replacement parts were not available for the custom-built vehicle, which was also no longer in compliance with national firefighting standards, fire officials said at the time.

Like the tower truck with which it shares a home, the new ladder is rated as a “rescue” truck, meaning it’s equipped with gear for quickly lifting overturned cars and cutting them apart.

In this case, though, the so-called jaws-of-life equipment is lightweight and powered by lithium batteries, and no longer tethered by pneumatic hoses to the truck, thus extending the reach of the equipment and expediting rescues, said volunteer Vince Sarullo.

“It’s two trucks in one,” he said.

Other features include side-view video cameras that enable the driver to extend the truck’s stabilizer arms from the cab into spaces as tight as the gap between two parked cars, and a handheld remote that enables a firefighter to train a hose atop the ladder on a fire from the ground.

The truck features a 103-foot “stick” ladder, meaning there’s no bucket at the top, as with the 93-foot tower truck parked in the next bay.

Welsh said the committee he headed set its sights on delivering a truck that was right for the community, for the department and for the Navesink Hook. The end result, produced by KME Kovatch of Pennsylvania, cost “a lot of money, but it’ll be put to good use,” said Welsh.

Mike Welsh is a cousin to fire Chief-elect Tommy Welsh. If you missed our interview with the incoming chief earlier this week, you’ll find it here.