Nashville Fire District Rolls Out New Ladder Truck

    The Nashville Firefighters Association donation $35,000 to the Nashville Fire Protection District to help purchase the District’s new 109-foot aerial ladder truck, parked behind the firefighters.

By Alex Haglund

    A strange blue light was seen in the sky over Nashville on the evening of March 2. Raising more than 100-feet into the air, it was….the Nashville Fire Protection District’s new ladder truck.

The truck is the product of years of saving up by the fire protection district board, said Nashville Fire Chief Al Hohlt, along with years fundraising by the firefighters association, and fabrication by the company that built the enormous vehicle.

The truck is a Rosenbauer with a 109-foot aerial. It was built in Lyons, S.D., and was purchased through Sentinel Emergency Solutions of Freeburg, where it was as of the last week of March, having equipment mounted to it. The total cost for the truck along with all the equipment is about $825,000.

“This truck should last 30-to-35 years,” Hohlt said, “long after I’m gone.”

The truck’s utility and versatility, not its price, are what will make it a valuable tool for the fire department. On St. Louis St., IL-15, Hohlt said that with the current ladders the department uses, “we cannot reach the tops of these buildings.” A ladder truck not only makes it so that firefighters can get higher up, it also allows them to do so more safely than leaning a conventional ladder against a building in the midst of a structure fire.

Along with getting firefighters high up, it can also get them far in, something that could be very useful if there is a fire that needs to be fought in the commercial and industrial structures to the north of downtown Nashville along IL-127, exposing the firefighters to less risk in the process.

Along with the blue LED illumination shown on the front page of The Nashville News on Wednesday, March 8, the truck’s ladder also has plumbing for a hose and sprayer at its end, and in the case of dangerous situations, the ladder and sprayer can be operated remotely from a safe distance if necessary.

“It’s very state-of-the-art,” Hohlt said. “For $800,000, it’s going to be here a while and we want to be sure it’s built right.”

A committee to begin seeking a new ladder truck and a fundraising effort to assist in paying for it started almost three years ago, on September 9, 2014.

This five man committee was appointed by the fire protection district board. They visited various other departments in southern Illinois who had purchased new trucks, checked out the models they bought, asked those department members about what their experience had been like, and even asked them what they might do differently if they were to do it again.

February of 2015 was when the committee drew up spec sheets and went out for bids for the truck, with a bid opening being held in September of 2015. The bid was then awarded to Sentinel, the contract was signed and the long process of actually building Nashville’s new firetruck began.

“Basically, it took a year and five months to build the truck,” said Hohlt. The department took possession in February of 2017.

While the truck was being built, the firefighters association worked to bring in some money towards the purchase. During the past two years, various fundraisers including curbside chicken dinners and golf tournaments went towards an eventual donation of $35,000 from the firefighter association to the fire protection district.

For the lion’s share of the price though, it’s been a matter of preparation by the protection district’s governance, it’s board of trustees.

“The trustees have been vey frugal while planning for this,” Hohlt said, and due to that planning and anticipation, the district did not need to borrow money or raise taxes in order to make the purchase.

The truck will be out in Nashville this weekend, when on Saturday, April 8, the firefighters will have a training day on the new truck when an instructor from the Illinois Fire Services Insitute at the University of Illinois at Champaign comes to teach them, a service offered free of charge to the department and one Hohlt said that they are thankful for.

With a lifespan like the one envisioned for this truck, along the typical fires in the Nashville area, it’s a good bet this vehicle is going to be seeing a lot of action. That’s the point though. While Hohlt says he would like nothing better than for the truck to only be used in training and never needed for an emergency, things aren’t likely to go that way.

While the ladder truck is an expensive purchase, even if it only saves one life, keeps one firefighter from getting hurt, saves one person’s home or livelihood, “it will be worth it,” Hohlt said.