Aerial Manfacturer's Recall was Company's Second Since November

July 23--Yesterday's recall of aerial platform fire trucks built by a Dublin company was the company's second since November involving the possible sudden retraction of the vehicle's ladder.

The earlier one was attributed to inadequate maintenance for the ladder system by some departments, Columbus-area fire officials said. The company hasn't said if there was a different reason for the most-recent recall.

On Nov. 11, 2013, Sutphen Corp. recalled 156 ladder trucks in model years 2000 through 2011 because the ladder could unexpectedly retract, according to documents filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The company issued another recall late yesterday, hours after three firefighters in Hall County, Ga., were injured when a mechanical failure caused the five-section ladder to suddenly retract more than 20 feet before jamming. The three firefighters were in a bucket atop the ladder when it dropped during a training session.

A month earlier, three firefighters in the Erie, Pa., suburb of Belle Valley were injured during a rapid descent of an aerial platform on a 2010 Sutphen truck.

Last year's recall said ball bearings could seize, causing the cables running over them to chafe and fail. That recall included trucks from 2000 to 2011 and involved the same four models recalled yesterday -- SPH100, SP110, SPI112 and SAI110, according to the NHTSA.

Sutphen inspected the Columbus aerial platforms after the November notice and found they had been properly maintained, Battalion Chief Tracy Smith said. The vehicles passed another inspection earlier this month

"It apparently was a pulley issue," she said, adding that the city's Fleet Management Division modified its maintenance program to guarantee any problems would be spotted.

Still, Columbus took its six aerial platforms included in the recall out of service "to err on the side of caution," Smith said. The trucks were pulled from Station 2 on E. Fulton Street, Station 10 on W. Broad Street, Station 26 on Fisher Road, Station 32 on Gender Road, Station 33 on Lazelle Road and Station 22 on Parsons Avenue, the Fire Division said.

The aerial platforms were replaced with ladder trucks the city has in reserve. Workers at the Fleet Management facility on Groves Road were busy this afternoon getting the replacement trucks ready for service.

"We've flipped those trucks out and absolutely can provide service and mutual aid," Smith said. Columbus routinely has 13 trucks in service.

A Sutphen official contacted this morning said he did not have the details on how many vehicles and departments were involved or how long repairs would take. A company news release said the vehicles can be used as engines or support vehicles, but the ladder must not be extended until the vehicle can be inspected.

"At this time, our priority is the safety of our firefighters," company President Drew Sutphen said in a news release. "In light of the recent incidents, we recognize there is an immediate need to take precautionary action. I would rather take every precaution necessary than to put firefighters at risk."

The company also inspected Upper Arlington's aerial platform, the city's lone ladder truck, after the November announcement and found it was safe, department spokesman Dan Kochensparger said.

"They did a site inspection, looked at those same those same bearings and said ours were fine because we were doing maintenance," Kochensparger said.

Upper Arlington and Worthington were among the smaller departments with aerial platforms on the recall list. Both could rely on Columbus for mutual aid if a platform truck is needed, fire officials there said.

The news was worse for Union County, where Marysville's 2005, $1 million ladder truck is the only one in the county, said the city's fire chief, Jay Riley.

"It's pretty devastating," he said.

As soon as he got word of the recall, Riley notified the other seven departments in the county who rely on Marysville if a ladder truck is ever needed and told them that he was taking the vehicle out of service.

"Safety, obviously, is our top concern and we will wait until we know for sure what's going on," he said. "We're going to be cautious."

Fire chiefs in Washington Township in Dublin and Norwich Township in Hilliard, whose aerial platforms were not part of the recall, said they would help Union County departments if necessary.

"We're running mutual aid for them," Washington Township Chief Alex O'Connell said.

Dispatch reporter Holly Zachariah contributed to this story.

Copyright 2014 - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio