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VFD trains on new ladder truck

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By Natalie Harris

INDIAN LAND – Training on the new ladder truck at Pleasant Valley Volunteer Fire Department started Aug. 4, the same day the Lancaster County Courthouse burned.

The timing was coincidental. Although the new ladder truck is the tallest in the county, it is not yet in use.

Ferrara Fire Apparatus Inc. aerial specialist Rodney Pearson flew from Houston, Texas, to train Panhandle firefighters on the truck. Ferrara and Spartan Motors built the truck, which was delivered to the station July 22.

Pearson gave the same four-hour presentation on Aug. 4, 5 and 6 to give more area firefighters a chance to learn about the truck. Pearson answered questions about the truck and guided firefighters as they practiced stabilizing the truck and extending and maneuvering the ladder.

"The truck's got a mind of its own," Pearson told the firefighters Aug. 5. "I'm telling you, it's got a mind of its own, and you're going to get frustrated with it sometimes because it's not going to let it hurt you and it's not going to let you hurt it."

Pleasant Valley volunteer firefighter Ryan Creed said the challenges of operating the ladder truck are its size and coordinating it with the other engine that will inevitably be present at a fire.

For instance, the ladder truck operator will always have to watch out for overhead power lines, stabilizing the truck before extending the ladder and making sure all features are in place so the truck won't override manual controls.

"The firefighter's life is the utmost," Pearson said. "The truck that we build is designed for the firefighter's safety."

The ladder truck is 11 feet, 11 inches high with a ladder that can extend 107 feet. It's the county's tallest ladder truck.

It looks complicated, but Pearson says it isn't. He picked up a helicopter pilot once and took him for a ride in a Ferrara truck.

"My gosh!" the pilot exclaimed. "What are all these buttons for?"

"I said, 'Dude, you fly a freakin' helicopter that has tons more switches than this,'" Pearson said. It's all about perspective.

Lancaster County Fire Marshal Stephen Blackwelder says the ladder truck will probably not be used for several weeks. Pleasant Valley VFD is waiting on some parts from Ferrara.