Million-dollar fire ladder unveiled

In a cradle at the end of a giant outstretched mechanical arm, I was amazed at the ability of our firefighters and ambulance officers to face challenging situations.

The fire ladder, attached to a $1.3 million truck, was shown off in a simulated rescue managed from the deck of the landlocked tourist-attraction ship Whyalla on Friday.

Before taking a ride on the device, I watched as retained fire-fighter Darren Goodwin portrayed an “injured” tourist being lifted to safety on the cradle at the end of the ladder.

The new machine, based at the Whyalla Metropolitan Fire Service, will enable rescues from such places as the Whyalla where the “patient” would otherwise have been winched over the side of the hull to the ground or carried through stairwells.

An ambulance officer accompanied retained senior firefighter Michael Del Giacco who controlled the movements of the ladder from his birdseye position in the cradle.

Fittingly, it was the 76th anniversary of the launching of the Whyalla at the former local shipyards that day.

After the “patient” was lowered to the ground for “treatment”, it was my turn to copy the fearless feats of the fire-fighters and ambulance officers.

I was strapped into a harness that was latched onto the cradle. Michael and I and quickly rose almost 20 metres for a panoramic view of the steelworks, coast, city and golf course.

The cradle wobbled a little at first, but I soon had my sea legs. We then did a sky-scraping 360-degree rotation, taking in the sights and towering over the ship’s deck.

The truck is known as a CAPA – Combination Aerial Pumping Appliance – and will be based at Whyalla while covering Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Port Lincoln.

Commander Wayne Trezise said the unit could arrive at a fire, extend the ladder and spray water from up to 60 metres way, all within a minute.

“It can do anything a normal truck can do. It has 4000-litre-per-minute pump and 2000 litres of water and the aerial component that will reach to 20 metres and carry 450 kilograms,” he said.

“It was designed by the fire service to our specifications. It is the first time that paramedics have seen it in the district. “We can perform rescues from industrial areas from the tops of buildings and fight flames from a high elevation.

“It is the first one of its kind in Whyalla. It highlights that Whyalla is still alive and prospering.”

Trainer and station officer John Brumpton, of Adelaide, said the unit would provide an excellent service for the Arrium steelworks if it had an industrial issue.

A small crowd of tourists watched the cherry-picker go through its paces.