The Upper Moreland Fire Department’s ladder 10 truck’s mighty engine drowned out the buzzing of lesser vehicles whirring along the turnpike, just yards away.
Willow Grove Volunteer Fire Company () members were clamoring in, around and on top of the fire truck, in order to outfit a large nozzle at the tip of the truck’s 110-foot retracted ladder. Once fully extended, and operated by a team of practiced firefighters, the ladder truck transforms into a powerful water turret.
“It’s called a ladder pipe,” Chuck Jones, Jr., WGVFC deputy chief, explained. “It keeps firefighters safe.”
On the evening of July 12, Jones and over 15 other WGVFC members assembled in a vacant parking lot off of Maryland Road, in between an unoccupied building and a small stretch of woods that led to the turnpike.
Jones said the ladder pipe is a way for firefighters to direct water at higher elevations from a safe distance, which is to say from the ground. This particular firefighting technique is possible through the use of the mounted ladder, located on top of the fire truck, otherwise known as a Tractor Drawn Arial (TDA).
The truck itself is a specialty tool of the fire department, Jones further explained, as it is able to maneuver around tight corners, such as apartment complexes, due to a rear steering system.
And, while Jones said that Willow Grove firefighters are sometimes called for assistance because of their TDA, it is not often that such emergencies call for its use in Upper Moreland.
But for Jones, and other senior WGVFC officers, that’s no excuse for firefighter members not to drill and familiarize themselves with the equipment.
“If you don’t do it enough, you forget things,” Jones said. “We’re basically doing skills, so the guys are ready to go when it really counts.”
The July 12 assembly was part of the regular Thursday night training for WGVFC members. According to Jones, the trainings are a mixture of classroom theory and hands-on work.
Training occurs for every possible emergency situation that may occur in and around Upper Moreland. According to Jones, their most recent hands-on training was on vehicle rescue, utilizing an actual car that was made to look like it had been crushed in a serious traffic accident.
Other July 12 training reviewed how to use the truck’s on-board chainsaws, as well as different ground ladder techniques.
“You practice how you play,” Brian Drennen, WGVFC firefighter said. “Once you get out there for real, it’s going to be second nature.”
Drennen, who at five years with the fire company is one of the younger firefighters, trained with members whose experiences ranced from being recent junior firefighters to seasoned veteran firefighters.
According to WGVFC chief Lee Perlmutter, such training is the essence of what it means to fight a fire.
“The training is to exercise the firefighters to work at their maximum capcity and efficiency,” Perlmutter said. “When you want to stop training, it’s time to stop being a firefighter.”
For more information, visit the WGVFC’s new website at www.tiller10.org