Following the fire that ravage parts of downtown Denison last week Denison Fire Rescue Chief Gregg Lloyd addressed the issue of why Denison’s ladder truck was unavailable to respond to the fire.
Lloyd addressed the City Council Monday morning at a special called meeting to address the city’s response to the fire. During the meeting Lloyd talked about why the city had to rely on partners from Oklahoma and around the county to respond with a ladder truck to the incident.
He said the department’s ladder truck is 23-years-old and was out of service due to the ladder controls being worn. The unit had failed its most recent test, and the truck was due for repairs the day the fire occurred. Lloyd said the parts arrived and the truck was taken to the shop the very next day.
Sherman’s ladder truck was unavailable due to a flat tire needing to be replaced.
Lloyd said the department relied heavily on its mutual aid partners, and when he and his battalion commander arrived on scene it was determined there were flames coming from the back of the building. Because the flames had already begun affecting transformers, he called Oncor to shut down power which delayed the department getting water on the fire for 13 minutes and 29 seconds from the first call.
The first responders from the fire department arrived just over 4 minutes from when the call was made, and Lloyd also made the decision to go from the one and three quarter-inch hose for the larger two and a half-inch hose. The time it takes to get the trucks and hoses ready for that extra water takes longer, Lloyd said.
The fire spread quickly because the firefighters could not get quickly access the area.
Once Howe, Sherman and the Oklahoma departments in Calera and Durant arrived with their respective ladder trucks, there were four in total on the scene: two in the front and two in the back. By that time, Lloyd said the roof had collapsed at the antique store next door providing all the access the department needed to fight the fire from there with the four ladder trucks.
One citizen, former owner of 317 West Main Street Jay Connelly suggested the city rent or lease one in the event the truck was down for repairs.
“Many of them (the towns) that came are smaller town than we are, and they had a ladder truck to bring to our town to help us put a fire out,” Connelly said. “I stood there and watched while our building burnt to the ground. You didn’t have to be a firefighter to see what happened when the ladder truck came on scene. A lot of properties could have been saved if they had been dispatched right here from Denison. I hope knowledge is brought from that day. I beg of you all to lease something or to rent something to make sure our beautiful downtown is taken care of from this day forward.
Lloyd said the city had ordered a ladder truck beginning in 2018 that was set to be delivered in August this year. A combination of factors ranging from the hurricane that hit Florida to the tariffs caused a delay in its arrival which is now scheduled for December.
It takes over a year to build a new ladder truck, Lloyd said. The delay left the city without a ladder truck while the fire burned several buildings on Main Street.
Lloyd said a ladder truck is important in the types of situations such as the fire that took place because it helps responders get access to the flames as rooftops tend to burn quickly. He also said it allows firefighters to get water directly onto the flames from above. The structural integrity issues were the most dangerous element, Lloyd said. It was difficult for firefighters to get into the buildings in order to fight the fire and some spot fires were still being put out at the site on Saturday.
“We have mutual aid partners we have standing plans in place,” Lloyd said. “When we have a situation where our ladder truck is down and Sherman’s ladder truck is down, we kind of lean on each other for the periods where we’re going to be looking for a ladder. It was one of those cases where our ladder was down and it was going to be for a while. Sherman is right to the south of us. They have a ladder so we’re in pretty good shape. Sherman actually has two ladders but one of their ladders was unavailable. Their second ladder was headed to the shop. That was unfortunate timing. Even if we had a ladder in place, we have to pull it out of service for maintenance form time to time, that is a risk that comes with these. You can’t cover all those possible scenarios.”
Lloyd said typically the departments do coordinate with each other to know when an apparatus will be unavailable, and the situation with Sherman’s tire was a quick fix but was unforeseen. He said last week’s fires just happened at the absolute wrong time for Denison.
Do you think the city should consider renting or leasing a ladder truck while it waits for it’s new one to arrive? Let Denison area reporter Richard A. Todd know by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter @RichardAToddHD.