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News / Clark County News

Disaster averted when 31-ton ladder truck is struck by rock

By Mark Bowder, Columbian Metro Editor
Published: January 24, 2010, 12:00am

A Vancouver Fire Department ladder truck crew had a narrow escape early Saturday when someone hurled a large rock into the massive vehicle’s driver-side windshield.

None of the four firefighters on board was injured, according to Vancouver firefighter-spokesman Jim Flaherty. But he said the incident easily could have turned out worse.

“The reality of it is, if it had gone a foot either way and if something happened to the driver, then we’d have gotten into a vehicle control issue,” Flaherty said. “An out-of-control or incapacitated driver of a ladder truck is going to have a bad result for the other people inside and whatever else that multi-ton ladder truck comes into contact with, whether it’s another vehicle or a building.”

Police are investigating.

The ladder truck crew, which was returning from a 911 call in Orchards, was driving south in the 4100 block of Northeast 112th Avenue at 1:35 a.m. Saturday at the time of the incident, Flaherty said.

The rock, which weighed 2-3 pounds, caved in a section of the driver’s-side windshield. Flaherty said the crew didn’t see who threw it. “It happened so quickly,” he said.

At 56 feet, the ladder truck is so long that it needs a tiller-man at the rear of the apparatus to help steer the vehicle around corners. It weighs 31 tons.

“The driver did a heck of a job getting it stopped safely,” Flaherty said.

Flaherty, who called the incident “extremely stupid and extremely dangerous,” said the damaged truck will be out of service until it can be repaired. With a reserve ladder truck already out of service, the incident leaves the city with only one working ladder truck.

The Vancouver Police Department asked that anyone with information regarding the incident to contact Cpl. Doug Rickard at 360-487-7535.

“We believe somebody knows something about this,” Flaherty said. “Now, with all of the east side of the community without a ladder truck, we’re looking for somebody to really step up.”

Mark Bowder: 360-735-4512 or mark.bowder@columbian.com.

Columbian Metro Editor