Watertown, other departments affected by Fort Drum Fire’s loss of ladder truck

Updated: Jan. 15, 2020 at 3:54 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The Fort Drum Fire Department is without a ladder truck and that has a ripple effect on other area departments like the city of Watertown, which turns to Fort Drum when it needs backup.

When a warehouse on Vanduzee Street went up in flames in 2015 and when a vacant building on Newell Street was set on fire in 2018, the Watertown Fire Department was able to call on Fort Drum's department to bring in an extra ladder truck to attack from above.

"We've always had a good working relationship with them," said Watertown Fire Chief Dale Herman.

But that's not the case anymore. Right now, Fort Drum is without a ladder truck.

"In the past two years, we've lost both ladder companies, ladder trucks that we have. We just lost one this past fall and now we have no elevated platforms to do ventilation, etc.," said James Haggerty, IAFF Local F-105 union president.

Herman says Fort Drum is its go-to department for backup. Now, it'll have to go elsewhere.

Herman says it hasn't happened yet, but if the fire department were to need a backup ladder truck, it would have to look to other volunteer departments such as the town of Watertown or Black River.

"The volunteer departments aren't staffed on a regular basis so there is a lag time involved in activating them, getting a crew assembled and getting the resource on the road," said Herman.

Three of Fort Drum's other fire apparatus also have been taken off the roads.

Herman says aging equipment is a problem at many fire departments. It recently had to sideline one of its pumpers.

"We had a frame issue. That's been taken out of service. And we know we have a couple of other apparatus that also could potentially could be in the same boat in the future and so therefore trying to have plans in place to be able to replace vehicles that are old, antiquated, and or don't pass inspection is something that all of us in the fire service are looking at," said Herman.

Adding the challenge of aging apparatus to an already difficult job of fighting fires.

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