South Gulf Fire Rescue is expecting their new ladder truck to arrive in about six months. According to South Gulf’s Fire Chief Mike Barrett, it can’t come soon enough.
The truck, a used 2011 model with a 77-foot reach, is becoming increasingly important for the fire department, which covers Cape San Blas, Indian Pass and Simmons Bayou, where increasing building heights pose greater risks to firefighters.
“We’ve been researching for a ladder truck for about two and a half years,” said Barrett. “We try to be proactive, not reactive, and we understood that progress was coming.”
“Now. we didn’t know it was going to come at the vengeance that it has, but we knew it was coming, so we started assessing our equipment and what our responsibilities were, and that’s how this got started.”
The new truck will cost $275,000. It was approved by the Board of County Commissioners at their June 28 meeting, following the recommendation of Gulf County Emergency Management’s Director, Matt Herring.
“I would like to recommend that the board accept REV Technical Center’s bid for the aerial ladder truck,”Herring wrote in a memorandum ahead of the meeting. “I recommend that we accept the bid contingent upon the aerial ladder truck being in the same condition as inspected by myself and Chief Mike Barrett.”
The majority of houses on the Cape are multistory, with many being built on stilts as a means of flood prevention. Recently, the building height restriction on the Cape was raised from 50 feet to 60 feet.
Currently, South Gulf Fire Rescue has a 50 foot aerial ladder truck – too short to reach the top of some of the newer structures in the area.
South Gulf’s emergency responders have taken on additional training over the past several months to keep up with the additional strains of fighting fires in larger buildings, but having appropriate equipment to address issues at these structures will help considerably with the additional burden on first responders, Barrett said.
For firefighters and other first responders, large, multi-story structures present greater hazards when they are called to respond to them – including increased fire load, larger search area for possible victims and limited escape routes.
Full fire gear itself can weigh upwards of 60 pounds, and a standard fire hose weighs about 40 pounds per every 50 feet.
An aerial ladder truck with a high enough reach can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to respond to fires by providing enough height to firefighters without climbing flights of stairs in full gear.
“When you make an assessment of what eqipment you need, you have to think of all the tacticle issues involved,” Barrett said. “We have the capability with this arial (ladder truck) to at least reach the rooftops of any structure in our district.”
At the June 28 meeting, Gulf County commissioners also voted to allow Emergency Management to go out for bid for additional bunker gear for Gulf County fire departments.
“I’m requesting that we go out for bids, receive sealed bids, for bunker gear for the fire departments,” Herring said at the June 28 meeting. “We’ve had several new volunteers. Beaches has added six new members, Dalkeith has added several members, and we need some more bunker gear.”
Commissioner McDaniel, who is a volunteer firefighter, instructed Herring to include forestry-style fire gear in the bid as well, which the board agreed to in a vote.
South Gulf Fire Rescue expects to take possession of their new ladder truck in early 2023.