Intense heat of fire melts aerial ladder truck

"It's fire resistant not fire proof," Mayoral executive assistant Sean Ward said

By Kenneth C. Crowe II
Times Union

COHOES, N.Y. — The Remsen Street fire burned so intensely on Thursday that it melted the tires, electric system and hydraulic lines of the Watervliet-Green Island aerial ladder truck at the fire scene, officials said Tuesday.

“It was so hot that it melted the tires. It’s fire resistant not fire proof,” said Sean Ward, executive assistant to Green Island Mayor Ellen McNulty-Ryan.

Blistered paint can be seen on the fire truck, which also had melted tires and pump panel damage.
Blistered paint can be seen on the fire truck, which also had melted tires and pump panel damage. (Photo/Watervliet Fire Department)

The aerial ladder was eventually able to be driven back to the Watervliet Fire House where it’s being assessed for damage, Mayor Michael Manning said.

The extensive damage showed the pros and cons of mutual aid agreements uniting Cohoes, Green Island, Troy and Watervliet when it comes to fighting fires.

The aerial ladder truck was dispatched to the Nov. 30 fire that destroyed or damaged 32 buildings. This eight-year-old apparatus was bought in Aug. 2009 for $859,000 by the city and village under a shared services agreement to curtail costs.  It was on the fire scene in place of the Cohoes Fire Department’s 13-year-old ladder truck that was pulled out of service a week earlier for maintenance and repairs after it began smoking.

“Even the best of engines have to be maintained,” said Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse, a retired fire captain with 26 years of service with the city's fire Department.

Cohoes’ ladder truck is expected to be returned to duty this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday.  While it was out, Cohoes turned to Watervliet and Green Island to provide aerial ladder coverage.

Now that these two cities and village don’t have their own ladder trucks available, Troy Fire Chief Thomas Garrett said his department is backing them with its aerial ladder truck.  The largest of the four communities, Troy has two aerial ladders – one on duty and another as a backup.

The Watervliet-Green Island aerial ladder arrived on Remsen Street within the time parameters outlined in a 2011 study that considered merging the Watervliet and Cohoes fire departments, Morse said.  While the aerial ladder truck headed north from Watervliet, Morse said Cohoes deployed three pumpers – one behind Remsen Street, two on Remsen Street – to attack the inferno.  The mayor said the third pumper, instead of a city ladder truck, helped prevent the fire from increasing its zone of destruction.  Normally, he said, the third pumper would not be there.

“Mutual aid worked,” Morse said.

It’s not uncommon to see firefighters and their equipment from adjoining communities at fire scenes in Cohoes, Green Island, Watervliet and Troy.  How many departments respond depend on the severity of the fire.  The Nov. 30 fire that was spread by blowing winds saw a higher than normal response.

As Cohoes begins to recover, Watervliet and Green Island are waiting for a report on the intense heat damage to their aerial ladder truck, which affected the electronics and hydraulics,   Manning said.  A decision will be made on whether to repair the apparatus or buy a replacement, Manning and Ward said.

Currently, they said, it has to be determined how much each community’s insurance coverage will be responsible for paying the costs of getting the repaired equipment back in service or whether it's worth buying a new one.  The heavy damage to the equipment, they said, is offset by knowing that help will arrive when it's needed.

Cohoes Councilman Randy Koniowka has written Morse and Common Council President Chris Briggs to ask for a resolution to have the city bond $1 million to purchase a new ladder truck and a new pumper. Koniowka said it took more than 10 minutes for the Watervliet-Green Island aerial ladder truck to respond. Morse said that the councilman didn’t know what he was talking about, saying that it took six to seven minutes for the Watervliet-Green Island equipment to arrive.

“Mutual aid does work. We should drop 20 years of professional fighters planning because Mr. Koniokwa?” Morse said.

The mayor and the councilman often face off politically.  Koniokwas said the city has delayed purchasing equipment, according to his letter. Morse said he’s been working the Cohoes firefighters union to plan a five- to seven-year program for purchasing new equipment.  He said the city intends to purchase a new ladder truck within two years and place the current one in reserve.

Copyright 2017 Times Union

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