Ken Barkley

Mat-Su Borough Emergency Services Director Ken Barkley.

PALMER — The Mat-Su Borough discussed and approved the purchase of a fire engine including large ladder platform by the Central Mat-Su Fire Service Area in an effort to come to the aid of neighboring West Lakes FSA at the meeting of the Mat-Su Borough Assembly on Tuesday.

Ordinance 21-003 and Resolution 21-002 passed by a vote of 5-2 with Assemblymen Jesse Sumner and George McKee voting against the $1.5 million appropriation to purchase the aerial platform and related equipment. Following Department of Emergency Services Director Ken Barkley’s detailed staff report, McKee found objection.

“This is nothing more than buying a new toy that’s all,” said McKee. “I thought we’re talking about budget problems and here we are going to throw money on another vehicle we don’t need.”

Barkley explained how the mid-to-late 1980’s model ladder trucks that West Lakes had been using had to be put out of service due to maintenance difficulty on older models. The FSA boards for Central and West Lakes had met numerous times and decided to allow West Lakes to purchase Central’s 75 foot platform ladder truck put into service in 2008 for just half the estimated value. Barkley noted that now that West Lakes’ two ladder trucks were out of service, the farthest north ladder truck was located at Central. Barkley recalled that when Susitna Valley High School burned in 2007, the ladder truck had to come from Central because the West Lakes trucks were out of service at that time.

“West Lakes now does not have a ladder truck in their fleet. That does affect or could affect their ISO rating. I don’t want to focus on the ISO rating so much as what the ladder trucks bring to the service and the community,” said Barkley. “That will keep them covered, it will help with the ISO but it will also help them maintain the protection for the high hazard areas, the schools churches, three-story homes. Anything above three stories is required to have elevation type platform or truck that can reach that. The difference with having this truck is ground ladders are only effective as many people we have on the fire. To put a ground ladder up against he building to do any rescue or fire suppression, it’s a dangerous act.”

Barkley said that the plan presented by both FSA boards was to allow West Lakes to pay $300,000 for the 2008 ladder truck while Central purchases a new ladder truck for $1.5 million, which may take up to two years before it is put in service. The ladder truck moving from Central to West Lakes would remain in service until the new truck arrives.

“It will help with the safety of firefighters,” said Barkley. “By NFPA standard and by the ISO, you have to have weight on the roof and you must have a secondary means of egress. It’s not just by the height of the building, it’s the contestants of the building along with anything over 3500 fire flow. If the fire flow is greater than 3500 than a ladder truck is required according to NFPA.”

Barkley said that no additional funding would need to be secured as Central was had saved to make the purchase, but were purchasing a new truck sooner than planned in order to assist West Lakes. No new facility would need to be built to house the fire truck and Barkley expected that 22 more years of service would be plausible from the transferred ladder truck. The maximum building height that could be reached by the 75 foot ladder was at 35 feet, according to Barkley. Assemblyman Sumner questioned whether the Assembly could face litigation for allowing the sale of Borough owned assets at less than market value.

“ I think that we should postpone this and bring it back with some sort of finding of the value for the sale to West Lakes,” said Sumner. “It may not be advisable.”

Barkley said that Central would receive partial reimbursement for their purchase of the new ladder truck from Central. Barkley noted that the purchase of the new truck includes inspection opportunities for two Borough employees and every attachment required for fighting fires.

“We have used it. It has saved property loss and it has proven itself and it’s not only that, but the safety of the firefighters,” said Barkley.

Assemblyman McKee asserted that there were no buildings tall enough to require such a tall ladder in the Mat-Su Borough. Assemblywoman Stephanie Nowers asked about specifics of which buildings in the Mat-Su the 75 foot ladder truck could be useful on, to which Barkley gave multiple examples.

“As far as why we didn’t need this 20 years ago, the buildings are taller and we have a lot more box stores, we have a lot more tall buildings,” said Deputy Mayor Tam Boeve. “I can think of buildings in my district that could use a ladder truck and I’d just as soon have that coming from West Lakes then from Central. I think this is a win win for both fire departments and for the community.”

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