New fire engine 'too heavy' for roads

A STATE-of-the-art fire engine unveiled in Suffolk only last week has been sent back to suppliers after it was found to be too heavy for UK roads.

Will Clarke

A STATE-of-the-art fire engine unveiled in Suffolk only last week has been sent back to suppliers after it was found to be too heavy.

The £400,000 turntable ladder was also found to be in danger of toppling over during tests at its base in Bury St Edmunds.

Concerned firefighters and union bosses said last night the problems had left Suffolk with no turntable ladder cover for a week as two older ladders were still being repaired.

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A Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said the vehicle's weight issues had been discovered during “acceptance testing”.

She said the addition of water, firefighters and extra equipment had not been considered when the weight of the bespoke vehicle had been calculated.

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Joanna Spicer, Suffolk County Council portfolio holder for public protection, added: “There have been design issues but we expected glitches.

“It is just heavier than we ordered. It is possible to reduce the amount it carries - even if it is potentially dangerous it can be corrected and we are seeking expert advice.

“There is no question it would be put into use until it is absolutely 100% safe.”

Mrs Spicer said the machine represented value for money because it would be more flexible than existing fire engines - and in the meantime she insisted turntable cover from Essex and Norfolk was adequate.

She expected one of Suffolk's old turntable ladder appliances to be back in use today.

However, Pete Taylor, Bury Fire Brigades Union (FBU) chairman, claimed the new machine may have been overloaded with equipment because it had to merge the roles of a traditional ladder with a hose reel on a chassis designed to carry 18 tonnes.

Mr Taylor said crews were deeply worried by the situation, which left Suffolk relying on neighbouring services for cover: “We are astounded we have reached this position. We don't want to be alarmist but we are supposed to have to two turntable ladders for a reason.

“They are there for public and firefighter's safety because it means we can tackle fires more remotely and perform rescues at high level.”

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