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New aerial truck remains out of service for Alpha Fire Company

The Alpha Fire Company’s Sutphen aerial apparatus fire truck was removed from service in September at the request of the manufacturer. The ladders on similar trucks have failed, resulting in multiple injuries to firefighters and the public. Although the truck has been returned, it remains out of service.
The Alpha Fire Company’s Sutphen aerial apparatus fire truck was removed from service in September at the request of the manufacturer. The ladders on similar trucks have failed, resulting in multiple injuries to firefighters and the public. Although the truck has been returned, it remains out of service. CDT photo

When Alpha Fire Company was forced to take its new aerial truck — purchased in 2007 for $880,000 — out of service due to a faulty ladder system, Fire Director Steve Bair wondered if the company was simply going to be out of the money.

The 100-foot aerial ladder truck was purchased through Sutphen, a family-owned, Ohio-based company specializing in fire and rescue vehicles. A “stop use” order was issued last year by Sutphen after several firefighters were injured by faulty trucks.

Because the Centre Region couldn’t be without an aerial truck, a 1991 Pierce aerial truck was purchased for $51,000 to serve in its place.

The Sutphen was taken back to Ohio for repairs and changes, Bair said Wednesday. Although it has been returned, it is still out of service due to a faulty outrigging sensor and other work Alpha feels needs to be done.

Bair said he received a letter Monday from Sutphen saying they are working to establish a date a worker can come to State College to work on the truck. Until then, it sits in the borough’s fire station.

“Hopefully they’ll get out here sooner rather than later,” he said.

The repairs have come at no cost to the fire company, he said, as Sutphen has committed to doing the repairs at their expense after the recall.

In the meantime, the Pierce truck has been working out great, Bair said. Though it is an older, heavier machine without modern suspension and steering, it has been doing “a yeoman’s job.”

“It handles like a city bus,” he said, “but it’s doing a very nice job for us.”

What will happen to the Pierce remains unknown, but according to Bair, Alpha has a lot of options, including selling the truck or holding on to it as a backup.

Ultimately, he said, everything hinges on when the Sutphen gets back into service. For the time being, it would be premature to think about what they will be doing with the truck.

Right now, his attention is focused on the Sutphen and getting it back to doing what it’s supposed to be doing, he said. With the fleet shuffled around to accommodate an inactive truck at the fire station, the sooner he can get the fleet back where it belongs and figure out what Alpha is doing in the long term, the better.

“I’m a pretty anxious camper at this point to get this resolved,” he said.

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