Ladder Trucks Recalled After Collapse at Fire

Pierce is recalling about two dozen ladder trucks in the United States and Canada after a part collapsed while Methuen, Mass. firefighters fought a Christmas Day blaze.


METHUEN, Mass. --

One of the four outriggers used to stabilize Methuen's 1996 Nova Quintech ladder truck collapsed during the fire at Shadi's Restaurant & Lounge on Osgood Street while two firefighters were in the bucket attached to the ladder, dropping them onto the roof of the burning restaurant. They escaped uninjured.

The city took the truck out of service that day.

Pierce Manufacturing owns the rights to the ladder truck. The broken part was brought from Methuen to Wisconsin, where Pierce is based, said Fire Chief Steven Buote.

The company issued a "product safety bulletin" about the defective parts -- the Nova Quintech Sky-Arm and Sky-Pod stabilizer beam assemblies.

"It has come to our attention the original Nova Quintech stabilizer beam design may be susceptible to failure," the bulletin says. "If the failure occurs, the stabilizer beam may collapse, causing death or serious injury."

The bulletin references the Methuen accident.

"Fortunately, no injuries occurred. However, subsequent Pierce engineering analysis concluded that a structural weakness was inherent in the Nova Quintech stabilizer beam design," the document says.

Pierce will manufacture new stabilizer beam assemblies, and they will be available and installed after May 2 "at no cost to the owner," the bulletin says.

"We're probably looking at in excess of a $100,000 job here," Buote said. Methuen paid about $680,000 for the truck with federal and state money in 1996.

"To replace that with a similar piece today would be roughly about $1.2 million," Buote said.

Buote said there are about two dozen of these trucks in service in the United States and Canada. He has spoken to other chiefs who have the truck, and nobody reported problems, Buote said.

Methuen lacked a ladder truck for a while and had to call for mutual aid from neighboring communities for a ladder three times, but the extra help ended up being unnecessary in all instances, Buote said.

Methuen is now borrowing a spare tower ladder truck from Andover, which Methuen firefighters trained to use.

The Manchester, N.H. Fire Department has the sister truck to Methuen's ladder, and they temporarily took theirs out of service as well.

"We decided that because Pierce believes there is an issue with design, we could no longer run it for liability issues," said Keith Foster, the equipment superintendent for the Manchester Fire Department.

This means Manchester has four ladder trucks in service instead of its usual five, according to Foster.

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