Hoquiam chief makes a case for new ladder truck

You may have noticed that once again signs are springing up around Hoquiam that say, “Vote Yes for Fire Levy.” If you are a registered voter in Hoquiam, you have probably received your ballot in the mail for a Special Election on Feb. 12. The measure on the ballot will ask the voters to approve the purchase of a new 100-foot ladder truck. This ladder truck would replace the 1979 aerial truck we had that was taken out of service two years ago and for which a previous levy failed to pass by a handful of votes.

One of the questions I am asked most often is, “Do we really need a new ladder truck? Why can’t we just use Aberdeen’s?”

Without an aerial ladder we lose the ability to conduct rescues above the second floor. This is extremely important as many of our higher buildings house senior citizens and citizens with disabilities. Some of these include Emerson Manor, Hoquiam Manor and Harbor Manor. Channel Point village is a good example of a two story building that houses seniors and that would be extremely difficult in a rescue operation without an aerial ladder. In addition, many of the buildings in our downtown core are three- and four-story buildings.

The levy would be for $1.2 million over a period of 20 years. Property owners would pay 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. This would cost the owner of $100,000 home $1.58 per month or $19 per year. Over the 20-year period they would pay $380. The owner of a $50,000 home would pay half of this amount.

Another question I am asked is “Is there a cheaper option?” We have tried to find ways to reduce the cost (limiting options) however, firefighting vehicles are specialized equipment with numerous safety features built in. Shorter ladders are available; however this limits reach and ability to perform life saving rescues. The truck would have a 100-foot ladder with a platform at the end. This platform will have two large water monitors, which along with the water pump, would have the ability to move 2,000 gallons of water per minute. Also a 400 gallon water tank and 125 feet of ground ladders would be included.

One of the unique things about the fire service is you never know what the next call will bring. You may be extricating someone from a head-on automobile accident, performing CPR on an infant or responding to a structure fire with a report of people inside.

As the Fire Chief for Hoquiam, I admit that I’m biased, but I know that whatever job our firefighters are facing, it is extremely important that they have the right equipment. The Hoquiam Fire Department has dedicated and highly trained individuals who are expected to respond when called and gladly do so. Without the proper equipment however, the chances of success can drop dramatically.

Please remember to vote in this very important special election. If you have any questions, please call me at 637-6020.

Paul Dean is the Fire Chief City of Hoquiam