June 25, 2013

Ringing in a new responder

Dalton Fire Department puts truck into service

Rachel Brown

— Dalton Fire Department engineer Clyde McDaniel climbed inside the new 100-foot aerial platform ladder truck and rang the bell on the front for four sessions of four rings each.

Department Chief Bruce Satterfield stepped back to the podium in front of Station 1 on Waugh Street and addressed the crowd of several dozen public employees and community members who had gathered for a ceremony Monday morning to learn about the new vehicle and watch it be officially commissioned into service.

“Truly, if it’s needed in the next minute or two or before you leave, it will be answering calls in the emergency mode,” Satterfield said.

Yet there’s “a bigger picture than just a new fire truck in our city,” he said, explaining that a truck is only as good as the people using it. The $1.19 million Sutphen Corp. truck was made in Ohio by a private company that manufactures about 200 fire trucks every year. It replaces a 1987 model the department relied on to reach high places. The old truck will still be used as a backup, and it will be kept at Station 2 on Abutment Road.

After 26 years on the job, Satterfield said, that truck has had to have some expensive repairs, and officials decided it was time to replace it with one that also offers newer technology and enhanced safety features. For example, crew members who used to ride in a back compartment that wasn’t completely enclosed will now be fully inside the cab of the truck.

There is more storage space, the ladders on the new truck deploy faster, and it can pump 2,000 gallons of water per minute as opposed to the 1,500 per minute the old truck pumps. It contains a data recorder that tracks several variables such as how fast the truck is traveling and whether crew members have their safety belts buckled. There is even technology to prevent firefighters from making a mistake that could turn the truck over.

“There are so many safety devices built into this truck it’s totally amazing,” Satterfield said.

Dalton attorney Steve Williams said the truck is another step forward for an already stellar fire department. On Oct. 17, 2008, a man threw an explosive natural gas cylinder into the McCamy Law Firm on Crawford Street where Williams works, and the fire department did “a magnificent job” of both putting out the fire in the historic 1920s building and preserving the personal things stored there, he said.

Shaw Industries Risk Management Director Bill Whitmire said Dalton’s department is one of the most professional and prepared in the area.

“If you’ve ever been in an emergency and you see the Dalton Fire Department pull on site, you know you’re in good hands,” Whitmire said.

The fire department has a class 2 ISO rating. Departments can improve their rating by having training and infrastructure in place to more quickly be able to respond to emergencies. Lower ratings translate into lower insurance rates for property owners. While the new truck won’t change the city’s rating, Satterfield said it is another tool to help firefighters be more efficient.

Brian Anderson, president of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce, said strong fire protection is one factor in helping grow a community. Businesses and industries need a high level of service in order to locate in Dalton or grow and expand, he said.