Size of new fire engine rings alarm bells

THE roof of an Essex fire station is too low to fit its new fire engine in.So now emergency chiefs have a choice - to lower the vehicle or lower the floor.

Roddy Ashworth

THE roof of an Essex fire station is too low to fit its new fire engine in.

So now emergency chiefs have a choice - to lower the vehicle or lower the floor.

The problem was encountered while Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) was looking to buy replacements for its ageing aerial ladder platforms (ALPs).

These specialist machines allow firefighters to rescue people trapped in tall buildings, or even to raise a ladder over a blaze to fight it from above.

However, when ECFRS staff decided on the ideal model, they discovered the awkward fact that it was 10cm too tall to get into Colchester Fire Station - and the alternative models were even taller.

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And although Angloco, the company who make the Bronto ALP, said they could make the vehicle less tall by doing some custom work on it, ECFRS decided to see if it would be cheaper in the long run to lower the floor of the Colchester station.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley, ECFRS' director of assets, resources and administration, said: “Before placing the order for Bronto ALPs, ECFRS conducted a very thorough procurement exercise which included a review of station premises as height has been an issue in the past with this range of vehicles.

“The new Bronto ALP is 100mm taller than the existing ALP. The service was aware of this from the outset, but was keen to ensure that the best available appliances were considered throughout the process.

“Other ALP appliances were dismissed on the grounds that they were far taller than the new Bronto.

“Angloco were clear from the outset that the height could easily be reduced by 'troughing' part of the ladder assembly into the cab.

“This is common practice on these vehicles as appliance bay height is often an issue on older fire stations.”

Mr Eckley said that the cost of doing this work fell within the �2.5m set aside to pay for the five new vehicles.

But he added: “Before making a decision to trough the ALP, the service wants to fully assess all of the current ALP stations to determine what other property based-options are available, which is why a surveyor was recently measuring up at Colchester Fire Station.

“Making a property adjustment may be a better long term decision to overcome the fact that old fire stations always have an issue with bay size.

“This options report will inform the decision whether to trough the appliances or take an alternative 'property based' approach in July as part of our considered build programme.

“It would have been simple for us to sign off on troughing the vehicles when the order was placed, but to gain maximum efficiency now and in the future it may prove beneficial, in terms of cost and operational effectiveness, to maintain standard production models.”