MONTVILLE, NJ – The Pine Brook Volunteer Fire Department welcomed its new 55-foot ladder truck with a wetdown party Sept. 21.

A wetdown is like an initiation for a piece of first responder equipment. When you christen a ship, you break a champagne bottle on its stern. When you christen a fire truck, fire trucks pull up one at a time, lights and sirens on, and fire fighters spray the truck with water, “wetting it down.” The Pine Brook Fire party featured a DJ, drinks, and food. Montville Excelsior, Fairfield, Rockaway Neck (Parsippany), West Caldwell and South Boonton were some of the departments that sprayed the truck.

The new Pierce “sky-boom” truck was purchased to fulfill a specific need, said Pine Brook fire fighter, vice president, and lieutenant Justin Lizza. The department needed a smaller length ladder truck to fit in residents’ driveways to extinguish fires, according to Lizza.

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“We have a 100-foot truck, but we had to leave it at street-level during fires,” Lizza said. “Some residents’ driveways are very long, with the house set way back. This way, we can get the truck up there to fight the fire. This truck can also be used for any type of fire except at the former Bayer site. Those buildings are too tall.”

The new truck sprays 2,000 gallons per minute and holds 500 gallons of water as well as 50 gallons of foam, Lizza said.

“That 50 gallons of foam is used for fuel spills and for putting out car fires,” Pine Brook Fire Chief Jim Schmitt said.

Lizza said a committee of eight people in the department worked with representatives at the Pierce company, which manufactured the truck, to make this specific truck that met their needs.

“We designed the compartment sizes, the size of the ladder, and told them what our equipment needs were,” Lizza said.

“You don’t just buy a fire truck off the lot – you have to design it based on your needs,” Schmitt said. “It took about a year. You want to see that you’re getting the most for your money. We’ll get about 25 to 30 years out of this truck. Our other two, similar trucks are 1998 and 1999s, so they’re about at the end of their lives.”

Lizza said he traveled to Wisconsin with two other Pine Brook fire fighters for the pre-build meeting to go over the specifics with Pierce so they would get the idea of how Pine Brook Fire would use the truck, and go over the design with the engineers.

“Then after the truck was built, another team of three fire fighters went out to make sure that the truck was built to our specifications,” he said.

The truck hasn’t been put into service yet, though. The department’s members have to be trained on driving it, working the hydraulics of the pump, and working the ladder.

“The ladder operation is the most important part,” Lizza said. “The truck is much lighter so it only has small stabilizers.”

Schmitt said he expected the truck to be in use by mid-October. Then the truck will be used by itself, “because it has everything that we need.”

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