Refurbish job proposed for ladder truck

Tony Spinelli photos
Cost cutting is on many Connecticut minds these days, and the Wilton Fire Department is no exception.

Chief Ronald Kanterman proposed to the Board of Selectmen at its last meeting in February that the department should refurbish its aging ladder/rescue truck, built in 2004, rather than replace it with a new one.

A new one would cost $1.3 million, Kanterman said. A refurbishing job by the manufacturer, Pierce, based in Wisconsin, would be $350,000.

“We could save a lot of money,” Kanterman said.

“We could refurbish the ladder rescue truck and get another eight or nine years out of it,” he said.

The capital expense request for the refurbishing job is not imminent. Rather, the chief plans to ask for the money in 2021, for the 2022 fiscal year.

“We told them now because we don’t want it to be a surprise,” the chief said the next day at his office.

He credited the department’s new mechanic, Rick Petrizzi, who joined the department last year, for the idea of refurbishing rather than buying new. Petrizzi has thoroughly examined the 41-foot, 66,000-pound Pierce Dash, which has a 105-foot ladder attached to the back, and determined that the 500-horsepower diesel engine and transmission are good to go for another few years, to make it to 2022.

The truck goes out on the road at least once a day. It has a total of 37,000 miles on it, which is another reason Petrizzi thinks it can last until the refurbish appointment in Wisconsin.

In the refurbishing, even the rust will be repaired, Petrizzi said. That’s important, because the chemicals used on local roads in the winter to clear snow cause a lot of rust on cars and trucks from the underside, said Kanterman.

“Our vehicles today rot from the bottom up,” Kanterman said. “We keep our roads safe to drive on in the winter, but it takes a toll on our vehicles.”

The Wilton truck is unusual because it is made with a back end that can twist itself around tight suburban driveways and stone entryways. That’s important because the truck is long, and getting in and out of tight spots is a daily challenge.

“If not for that, a truck would be doing the cha cha for an hour trying to get out,” the chief said.

As a ladder truck, it can easily accommodate heights of eight stories. As a rescue truck, it carries portable ladders, the hydraulic jaws of life equipment, and an assortment of tools, including axes, that firefighters use in their response to calls at homes and commercial buildings.

The department has a total of five trucks at headquarters on Danbury Road, including two pumpers and a tanker.