Haverhill Fire Using Loaner Ladder Truck as Both of its Ladders are Out of Service

Firefighters fight fire at attic apartment at 119 River St., Haverhill. (Mike Jarvis photograph for WHAV News.)

Both of Haverhill Fire Department’s ladder trucks are out of service and the city is using a loaner from Lawrence. Fire Chief Robert M. O’Brien says the city was never without coverage.

Haverhill firefighters say mistakes made in the last decade or so are contributing to the problem. The chief says Ladder 1, housed at the Water Street station, simply went out of service Saturday because of an electrical problem with the ladder itself.

“(The mechanic) diagnosed the problem very quickly. He told me that it wasn’t a long-term problem, but it also wasn’t a quick fix,” O’Brien says. Coincidentally, he adds, Ladder 4, a backup housed in Bradford, is also out of service. “The company is waiting for parts. We’re kind of a victim of their supply chain. We’re waiting for a replacement part.”

Firefighters Local 1011 President Tim Carroll doesn’t necessarily disagree, but says poor choices a decade ago now haunt the department. He explains Ladder 1, ordered by then-Fire Chief Richard B. Borden didn’t fit in the Water Street station and was sent back for retrofitting. The truck it replaced, a Grumman, didn’t meet minimum standards for a backup. Instead, the city bought a used ladder truck for backup.

“We inherited someone else’s problems by buying a used one,” Carroll says.

Both O’Brien and Carroll agree Fire Department mechanic Ted Mazzota is the best in the state.

O’Brien says he called his Lawrence counterpart, Fire Chief Brian Moriarty, a former Haverhill firefighter, for help. The Lawrence Fire Department received instructions to respond on the first alarm to Haverhill until its reserve ladder could be brought to Haverhill.

O’Brien says the situation is not unusual. When Haverhill is helping another community as part of mutual aid, there is a scenario where another community is engaged to fill in here. As an example, the chief notes, another department he visited recently was borrowing a Boston truck. “It’s not uncommon,” he adds.

Haverhill’s reserve Ladder 4 is scheduled to be replaced in 2025 on the same schedule developed by former interim Fire Chief John E. Parow. O’Brien says he has named a committee to develop specs for the new truck which will go to Water Street, while the existing KME-manufactured ladder will become the backup.

Concerns about the closing of the PFC Ralph T. Basiliere Bridge, however, may result in a second ladder truck being brought into service to protect Bradford while a replacement bridge is constructed, O’Brien notes.

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