FORT DRUM, N.Y. (WWNY) - Fort Drum’s fire department puts out a call for help. Over the past 3 years, 5 of its fire trucks have failed inspection and haven’t been replaced. With a fleet of aging apparatus, the firefighters’ union tells us it needs Washington to come to the rescue.
To fight fires, you need the right tools. On Fort Drum, those tools are becoming scarce.
Not one or two, but 5 Fort Drum trucks are no longer usable.
"They're failing basic inspections, cracks and frames, etc., deeming them unfit for operation and they're immediately taken out of service," said James Haggerty, president of Fort Drum Firefighters I.A.F.F. Local F-105
Out of service are Engine 1, built in 1995, Engine 3, built in 1987, and Rescue 2, built in 2000. While maintained and refurbished over the years, they're now deemed unsafe and can't be on the roads.
“We have to have something to back fill it with and unfortunately, we’ve lost so many apparatus over the past couple of years that we’re running out of apparatus to back fill,” said Haggerty. “We’re at a point now where we are using apparatus that weren’t meant for structural firefighting.”
Fires are fought from the ground and from the air. Ladder trucks help save people trapped in fires on upper floors. But at Fort Drum, there is no longer a usable ladder truck. Truck 1, built in 1994, with a 75 foot reach, was taken out of service in September 2018. The department's 100 foot ladder truck built in 1987 failed inspection last fall.
Anchor Jeff Cole asked, "If someone is on the 4th floor and they need to be rescued in a structure fire, how do you rescue them?"
"Ground ladders, but our largest ground ladder is a 35 foot," said Haggerty.
Cole: "That doesn't reach?"
Haggerty: "No, it does not."
Cole: "So if they can't get there with a ladder, they might do an interior attack to where they go try to save that person?"
Haggerty: "Yes, we will. That's exactly what we will do"
Cole: "So that is putting your guys at risk?"
Haggerty: "Yes, that's our job."
It’ll be this way until the fall of 2020, when Fort Drum is scheduled to get one new piece of equipment. A decision made by the Pentagon hoping for help sooner, Haggerty wrote a letter to Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s office. (See the letter below).
"For her to use any connections she has to speed up any replacement apparatus sooner," said Haggerty.
In the meantime, as Fort Drum does without these trucks, it'll continue to borrow an engine from the Black River Fire Department and rely on ladder trucks from neighboring communities.
"We have a good relationship with other communities and the fact that we can pull from them is pretty important," said Haggerty.
Fort Drum said it shares in the union's frustration with not having the exact equipment the Army says is required and added this isn't a local decision. It comes from Washington.
As for the ladder truck situation, Fort Drum said, "Installations are authorized a ladder truck if they have 5 or more occupied 'un-sprinkled' buildings greater than 4 stories in height."
The post's tallest barracks are 4 stories - relatively new - and they do have sprinkler systems.
And Congresswoman Stefanik said, “We will continue to work with Fort Drum and the Army to expedite results but anticipate and are optimistic we will deliver the first fire apparatus this year.”