Howland crew christens truck

From left, Assistant Fire Chief James Sapp, Howland Trustee Dr. James LaPolla, and Fire Chief James Pantalone help Alex Vansuch, 8, and Ethan Vansuch, 7, hose down the department's new ladder truck. It is tradition to hose down then push a new firetruck into the station.

HOWLAND — It is tradition to hose down and “push” new service vehicles into the station, according to Howland fire Chief James Pantalone.

That’s what on-station firefighters and Howland trustees Dr. James Lapolla and Matthew Vansuch did Wednesday night to christen the department’s new ladder truck.

The truck replaced a 1989 ladder truck, said Capt. Ted Luman. According to Pantalone, the old apparatus was no longer passing standards tests.

The truck cost $787,000 and is being financed on a 10-year lease program, said Pantalone.

“The crew on the truck committee went through every nook and cranny to get what the township needs at a reasonable cost,” said Pantalone, adding that many ladder trucks cost as much as $1.2 million.

The new ladder is 107 feet tall, replacing a 75-foot ladder. The extended height is to safely access taller buildings such as Avalon Inn, The Manor and Shepherd of the Valley should the need arise, said Pantalone.

The custom-built truck was ordered last spring and finished in the second week of December, said Luman.

“The committee went through the truck front to back and decided what we need,” he said.

The body of the truck is over 40 feet long, and has the same hose systems as the retired truck, he said.

Before officially putting the truck into service, firefighters underwent 10 to 12 hours driver training through different types of areas, Pantalone said. The old truck was sold to a fire station in Kentucky, Luman said.

The fire department also received a Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistant to Firefighters Grant for $54,856 for the replacement of aging rescue tools. In order to get the grant, the department must match $2,742 — a figure determined by township population, Pantalone said.

The main use of the grant will be to replace the department’s nearly 20 year-old H-set jaws of life, said Pantalone. The current tool is functional and was used recently in a rescue, he said, but a new set of jaws will be more efficient in coping with the changing materials used in cars.

Other safety equipment, including hydraulic rams, airbags and rescue jacks also will be purchased with the grant, he said.

“It will be a compliment of rescue equipment,” said Pantalone, who expects to receive the money within the next five to 10 days. The federal grant was delayed earlier this year because of the government shutdown, he said.

Another change coming to the Howland Fire Department is an updating of the rates for ambulance and EMS services. A public hearing was set for April 12 following the regular trustees meeting to discuss changes to pricing.

“We want to stay on regiment to keep pace with changing rates,” Pantalone said.

Rates were last evaluated in 2012 and 2015, he said.

Residents will not be affected by the change because the department uses third-party billing and bills insurance companies directly, said Pantalone. Remaining fees not covered by insurance are taken out of a resident’s taxes.

“People say they get the services for free,” said Pantalone, “Actually, you don’t have a bill because it comes out of your taxes.”

Pantalone said rates charged by neighboring communities will be considered when determining the new pricing.