NM brush truck destroyed, ladder truck damaged in suspected arson
Santa Fe Fire Chief Paul Babcock said it could be several months to a year before the ladder truck can return to service
Daniel J. Chacón
The Santa Fe New Mexican
SANTA FE, N.M. — The Santa Fe Fire Department is no stranger to investigating incidents of arson.
A week ago, though, the department was on the receiving end of the investigation.
Arson is suspected in a July 17 evening blaze that destroyed a brush truck and heavily damaged a million-dollar ladder truck parked next to it at the fire department's training grounds near the intersection of Siler Road and Agua Fría Street, Fire Chief Paul Babcock said Thursday.
"It does hurt," he said, referring to the destruction and damage of public property.
According to a police report, the fire erupted about 8 p.m., not long after the department's training officer went home for the weekend "after securing the gates to the location."
The fire department's fleet manager and a firefighter told police the brush truck "should have no mechanical failures or issues which would cause it to ignite," the report states.
The report doesn't identify a suspect but notes that a "disgruntled" employee quit the day before.
Babcock said he hasn't seen the police report and declined to discuss the former employee, saying it was a personnel matter.
Babcock said the destruction of the brush truck and the damage to the ladder truck, which put it out of service, won't affect his department's ability to respond to calls.
"It won’t affect our operations because we do have a backup [ladder] truck," he said. "We’ll just put that crew in our reserve truck."
A truck from the fire department's Wildland Division will be used in place of the lost brush truck, which he said only responded "to so many fires during the wildland brush season."
Babcock didn't know damage estimates. He said the fire department recently purchased a truck that had "similar capabilities" as the lost brush truck for $80,000. The city paid about $1 million for the damaged ladder truck, though that was over a decade ago.
"I couldn't tell you what the depreciation would be," he said.
The ladder truck, which was next in line for replacement, will have to undergo repairs and extensive testing before it can be put back in use, he said, adding that it will require "a significant amount of money" to repair.
"We're looking at many months out, if not a year," he said. "The structural integrity of the ladder and the cabling system and the hydraulics and everything that has that ladder operational, that’s all going to have to be tested and recertified for approval before we’re able to put it back into service."
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