New ladder truck gives CK Fire extra reach

Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue mechanics, Joe Eberle and Dave Krause, raise the 105-foot ladder on the newly acquired ladder truck last month. - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue mechanics, Joe Eberle and Dave Krause, raise the 105-foot ladder on the newly acquired ladder truck last month.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

It took 3,134 miles — or 63 hours — of driving, but this wasn’t a typical cross-country road trip. It was done in an 105-foot ladder engine — now part of Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue’s fleet.

“It was pretty much uneventful,” said Joe Eberle, a Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue mechanic who was one of the two that drove the aerial fire truck from Pennsylvania back to Silverdale at the end of May. It was Eberle’s second time driving a fire engine across the country.

The 105-foot ladder is the first of its kind for Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue. The $240,000 vehicle was purchased from Feasterville Fire Company, a volunteer group in Pennsylvania, that had it for 14 years. Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue is paying for the purchase of the fire truck through a building impact fee.

Eberlee and Jeff Denton, another mechanic with the fire agency, first flew to Philadelphia where they picked up the fire truck and drove it to Appleton, Wis. There, they received training for the vehicle and the truck received its “Ladder 51” lettering. The engine will be located at Station 51 on Silverdale Way.

“It’s a significant improvement in our capability to fight fires,” said Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Jay Lovato. “We’ve been looking for an aerial ladder for a long long time.”

New aerial ladders cost about $800,000 and the volunteer firefighters kept the used aerial in good condition, Lovato said.

For the last five years, all commercial buildings that have more than three floors, have been paying a mitigation fee of $25,000 for each floor — the building impact fee — to go toward the purchase of the fire engine, said Randy Billick, Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue division chief.

To date, the impact fee has brought in $193,611 and fee collections will continue until next June, Billick said. The fee does not include residential homeowners, he added.

In turn, those who will benefit from the 150-foot ladder — tall buildings — are paying for it, and not the private homeowner.

Home insurance rates are in part affected by local fire protection, but Billick said that the arrival of the aerial truck will not change home owners’ insurance rates. However, he said it may reduce the insurance rates for commercial buildings located within a two-mile radius of station 51.

For now, equipment such as radios are being installed into the vehicle and crews will go through a training in October in North Bend to learn how to operate the new fire engine, Lovato said. It likely will be ready for use by the end of the year, he added.

“It isn’t something we learn in a week. It’s not like adding a new ambulance. There’s only one ladder truck,” Lovato said.

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