Subcommittee on Ladder Trucks

UC Davis ladder vehicle fighting a fire in downtown Davis in 2018

The following are the full comments and concerns from a subcommittee comprised of Doug Buzbee, Ezra Beeman, and Donna Neville

Is there a need? At the bottom of page 1 of Chief Tenney’s staff report, he asserts that it has been established that there is a critical need for a ladder truck for the City of Davis. Was there some third party professional report that establishes this? Is there an NFPA standard that the City does not meet? Is there communication from some other authority that supports this statement? It is not clear to me that there is a critical need for a new ladder truck. I would request that that be established in some formal way, rather than the Chief simply saying “we need a ladder truck.”

Tall buildings and current building code: The new tall buildings being built in the community are all equipped with internal fire sprinklers and fire fighting stand pipes (like fire hydrants in the stairwells of the buildings). There are 10+ story building in every major city in the world and there is not a ladder truck that can reach that high. There are alternative ways of fighting fires in taller buildings, and current building code requires that fire fighting facilities are constructed into the building itself. Assuming these fire fighting facilities are built into our buildings, it is unclear why a ladder truck is necessary.

Alternatives and UCD resources: The City cannot make this decision on the benefits of a new ladder truck without considering alternative ways of meeting this need. We need to know how many times the City has needed to make use of the UCD ladder truck over the past few years. My understanding is that UCD has a ladder truck which is staffed with 4 fire fighters. According to the Davis Vanguard, this truck can reach anywhere in Davis within 8 minutes. Nothing in the staff analysis indicates whether a joint use agreement has been considered and we believe this should be explored.

See Vanguard article:

Ongoing and staffing costs: The ongoing cost of staffing the truck is the most problematic to us. This adds significant additional staffing costs, dedicated only to this truck, which may only be used occasionally. Further adding these staff positions will add to the city’s OPEB/Pension costs.

Potential alternative uses of City’s resources: Without addressing the questions as to what funds can be used for what, the ongoing total cost of between $800K and $1.4MM is substantial. Dan Carson made a comment that the annual cost of the new ladder truck and crew is roughly equivalent to a $50 parcel tax. We have a homelessness crisis in Davis. By the County’s last count, there are 200 or so homeless people living in our City. If we were to apply these resources to that problem we could substantially solve that problem. How about roads? Even though we have among the worst roads in the county, voters denied a parcel tax to fix the roads a few years back.

Bottom line: In the absence of justification for the one-time and ongoing costs, I think there are higher priorities.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Jim Frame

    The questions asked by the subcommittee seem like the kind of elementary responses one would get to a “Hey, maybe we should buy a ladder truck!” statement from a Fire Department blue-sky brainstorming session.  How did this matter get as far as a formal spending request without having these questions long-since investigated and answered?

    1. Bill Marshall

      You pose a good question about why very basic questions have not been asked, and honestly answered, Jim.

      Used to be that in Davis, height restrictions were based on no ladder truck… exceptions then got made (USDA and Roe Building), using the argument that UCD has one…

      Many years later, Building and Fire Codes have made major strides, and are now required parameters for buildings for structures completed after ~ 2000 [I am imprecise, as I only ‘followed’ them in general… but I do know they have become more and more rigorous].

      A ‘hook and ladder’ truck was of no use, zero, in the “twin towers”… it’s incremental need for use in Davis, for buildings over 3 stories, built since ~ 2000 is de minimus… in effect, a very expensive ‘toy’, with even greater expenses for maintenance, operation (direct and indirect costs/liabilities for additional personnel)…

      An MRAP would be hugely more cost/benefit effective (citizen safety, overall)… and I did not, do not support the MRAP concept… but would support that more than a ‘ladder truck’, if it came down to a choice.

      If the ladder truck IS approved, ALL costs should be directly recovered from the owners of any buildings/structures where it would possibly be used, with an additional charge to any property owner where it is actually used.

      In my opinion, and professional experience, knowing, conversing over the years, senior FD folk who I deeply respect, the answer to acquiring a ladder truck should be “NO”.


  2. Alan Miller

    If we were to apply these resources to that problem we could substantially solve that problem.

    I’d like to see that plan.

    And agree 100% with JF.

    This is going down like a lead zeppelin.

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