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Fire Chief: New Truck Worked When Stag Hotel Burned

The controversial ladder truck was road-worthy during the two-alarm blaze, but wasn't needed, chief says.

The  the city of Watsonville purchased in 2008 was in service Monday, the day.

That's what Watsonville Fire Chief Mark Bisbee said Thursday. The chief also said the ladder truck wasn't needed for the .

"At the time of the fire, the truck was in service but at 'reserve' status and not staffed," Bisbee said.

Bisbee went on to say the ladder truck, which is identical to the ladder truck the city already had, would not have been helpful at the .

The first ladder truck responded from Station 1, two blogs away on Second Street, to the fire within two minutes of the first 911 dispatch, Bisbee said. Even with that quick arrival, the first truck didn't deploy its ladder because there wasn't time and there were low power lines in the area. Also, the multiple second story windows that residents were exiting from were best accessed with smaller ground ladders.

In his blog, the Watsonville Fishing Report, Watsonville City Council Member Emilio Martinez brought up why the truck wasn't there to help those residents who flung themselves from windows. Some suffered broken bones, in addition to burns from the fire.

Martinez wrote, "A serious question remains: the City of Watsonville has two ladder trucks, one supposedly almost around the corner from where the fire occurred, and people had to jump from the 2 story structure?"

Using the long ladder on the truck “is not operationally what we would do,” Bisbee said. “We didn’t need it. We did need ground ladders but we had those.”

The ladder truck, a 1999 KME once owned by the city of Pasadena, was purchased with a $225,000 grant in 2008 but took a long road to get to Watsonville. It debuted last summer during the Fourth of July parade, but mechanical problems and the need to outfit the rig kept it from operating.

Bisbee said Thursday that the truck has been operational, though it's currently sidelined again.

“There's a sticky spot on the turn cable that it hangs up on... Right now it’s back in the shop for a few issues," the fire chief said, adding that the department is still buying a few things the truck need to be fully outfitted.

It has been reported on Watsonville Patch and in other media that the new ladder truck was intended to operate from , on Airport Boulevard, but Bisbee refuted that idea Thursday.

"The ladder truck was always intended to be a reserve fire truck," he said. "It doesn’t even fit at Station 2."

Also, the fire department doesn't have the funding to staff another truck with firefighters. It parks at , where the other ladder truck is, but has not been on a call in Watsonville.

“We haven’t really needed it yet," Bisbee said. “The whole point of it being downtown is if the other truck breaks."

Cathy P. May 04, 2012 at 03:07 PM
First we have occupied vacancies on the City Council, now we have operationally sidelined fire trucks, oy vey!
Jim Jennings May 04, 2012 at 03:13 PM
"Operational, but currently sidelined again"? What's that mean?
Steve Bankhead May 04, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Residing just a few blocks from the fire station, I'll sleep better tonight knowing we have a sidelined ladder truck in case the other ladder truck breaks.
Patricia May 04, 2012 at 10:32 PM
What happens if the first fire truck breaks down and the second one is inoperable at the same time? Then what? It would have been more prudent to buy a second truck that was better than the first considering the first truck would be the first to go out of order. Oh well what do I know? I'm not a fireman or anybody important enough to make such decisions. :-)

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