Gulf County Commissioners (from left) David Rich, Jack Husband, Sandy Quinn, Patrick Farrell and Phillip McCroan pose with South Gulf Fire Rescue Fire Chief Mike Barrett, right, in front of SGFR’s new 77-foot ladder truck. [ Wendy Weitzel | The Star ]
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South Gulf Fire Rescue buys ladder truck to reach new heights

More than a year after the Gulf County Board of County Commissioners approved the purchase, South Gulf Fire Rescue’s newest ride has arrived in town.

The new ladder truck, a used 2011 model with a 77-foot reach, made the journey from St. Augustine earlier this summer and was dedicated by the county commissioners on Aug. 22.

“We’ve been researching for a ladder truck for about two and a half years,” said South Gulf Fire Chief Mike Barrett. “We try to be proactive, not reactive, and we understood that progress was coming.”

The truck, Barrett said, had been needed for a long time in the fire department’s district, which covers Cape San Blas, Indian Pass and Simmons Bayou, where increasing building heights pose greater risks to firefighters.

The new truck cost $275,000. It was approved by the Board of County Commissioners at their June 28, 2022 meeting, following the recommendation of Gulf County Emergency Management’s Director, Matt Herring.

Following the truck’s dedication on Aug. 22, Herring said “it’s important to note that because of Chief Barrett’s dedication to securing this necessary equipment, we were able to get this truck not only cheaper, but faster than we would have been able to had we been looking to buy a new ladder truck.

According to Herring, wait times for new fire trucks can be upwards of two years at this time, largely due to supply chain shortages and high demand. 

New ladder trucks purchased by other departments around the country have been known to rack up prices well in excess of $1 million.

County Commissioner Jack Husband, left, congratulates South Gulf Fire Rescue Fire Chief Mike Barrett for the purchase of the department’s new ladder truck. [ Wendy Weitzel | The Star ]

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.

Prior to this purchase, South Gulf Fire Rescue had 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.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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