The Libertyville fire department’s “newest” piece of equipment actually is 20 years old, but the yearlong wait to get its refurbished ladder tower truck back has been worth the time and $647,000 cost, fire officials say.
What is known as a ladder tower truck, because of the basket in front, has been in Weyauwega, Wisconsin, at a Pierce Manufacturing Inc. facility that specializes in renovating fire apparatus.
“A group of us went up and gave it a final inspection and drove it back,” Fire Chief Rich Carani said. “We’ll let the guys get used to driving it again. The biggest thing is the ladder operation.”
In February 2019, Carani reported to the village board that the ladder truck was nearing 20 years old and was scheduled to be replaced. A new one was $1.3 million, he said, but a report from Pierce showed the truck could be refurbished.
That was determined to be a good option, and Carani received village board approval to waive competitive bidding for what is known as a “frame off” restoration.
Work included new paint, hydraulics, tires, interior, radiator, hoses, cables, emergency lighting and lettering. Also, the fire pump was rebuilt, the 100-foot ladder disassembled and repainted, electronics upgraded, and other parts repaired or replaced.
Originally, the work was to have taken about six or seven months, but it needed unanticipated replacement of the frame rails, and the coronavirus pandemic slowed the process, Carani said.
The rebuilt 69,500-pound truck is now ready for action and parked at fire department headquarters, 1551 N. Milwaukee Ave. The original mileage was 35,119, but the odometer was reset after the work and now stands at 210 miles.
The versatile truck that can pump 2,000 gallons per minute should last another 20 years, Carani said.
“It’s specialized,” he said. “It responds to quite a few calls. When you need it, you need it.”
The ladder truck is shared with the Mundelein fire department through an agreement struck in late 2017. Officials in both communities determined it was a common-sense way to improve efficiency and lower costs.
At the time, it was estimated Libertyville’s ladder truck and trained personnel would be needed in Mundelein about five times a year.
“There’s not a lot of these around anymore because of the expense,” Carani said.