Minn. fire department purchases first ladder truck in 25 years

The Bemidji Fire Department's new truck's longer ladder will allow the department to access the tops of some buildings in town they couldn't before


Jordan Shearer
The Bemidji Pioneer, Minn.

BEMIDJI, Minn. — For the first time in more than 25 years, a brand new ladder truck pulled into the Bemidji Fire Station on Monday.

Aside from simply replacing its older counterpart, the truck's longer ladder will allow the department to access the tops of some buildings in town that it wouldn't have been able to before.

The truck drove all the way to Bemidji from Appleton, Wis., a trek of nearly 500 miles. (Photo/Bemidji Fire Department)
The truck drove all the way to Bemidji from Appleton, Wis., a trek of nearly 500 miles. (Photo/Bemidji Fire Department)

"We can get to the top of them now, whereas before we may have been stretching it," said Chris Loebs, one of the department's assistant fire chiefs. "It still won't get us to the top of Tamarack (Hall)—they don't make trucks that big."

The truck drove all the way to Bemidji from Appleton, Wis., a trek of nearly 500 miles. Once it arrived at about noon, the department went through a number of checks to make sure everything was in working order.

The truck is new, and members of the fire department made several trips to Wisconsin to check in on the progress of the truck's construction.

"It was very exciting," said Loebs, who was one of the personnel to attend the factory. "I felt like a kid in a toy store. I couldn't wait to get in there."

At 110 feet long, the new ladder is able to extend far beyond that of the department's previous truck, which only reached to 65 feet.

The new truck also has a bucket at the end of the ladder that can hold up to two people. The former truck didn't have a bucket at the end of its ladder at all.

There are also a number of more subtle changes, such as the fact that it can deploy its ladder quicker than the department's older version.

"This is so much more specialized," said Bruce Hemstad, another assistant fire chief.

The department purchased the truck from MacQueen Emergency Group for nearly $1 million. Although the Bemidji City Council first approved the purchase in the summer of 2018, city officials were looking into the possibility for some time before.

While the truck is finally in the department's downtown garage, it's not quite ready to go on calls. The department's staff will spend the next week or two training how to operate the new vehicle. There are also some items that need to be transferred from the old rig to the new.

The department will keep the old truck until the replacement is ready to roll out. At that point, the 1992 truck will be sold.

The new truck also helped the department receive a new rating from ISO's Protection Classification Program. ISO is an independent organization that evaluates communities for the insurance industry. The Bemidji Fire Department's new station north of town prompted a re-evaluation of the department, and it subsequently received credit during that process for the increased capabilities of its new ladder truck.

Aside from all the bells and whistles of the new truck, the department also got to throw in a little personal flair. On the side of the truck, the words "Bemidji Fire" are pasted over a plaid background.

"It's a once-in-a-career truck," Loebs said. "This is the first truck we've put buffalo plaid on—the Bemidji plaid."

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©2019 The Bemidji Pioneer (Bemidji, Minn.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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