AUGUSTA — The city’s new, $1 million multipurpose ladder firetruck is in the shop for repairs after parts of its hydraulic system failed within just a few weeks of being put into service.

The city still has its older ladder truck, which the new truck was to replace, to help fight fires while the newer truck is fixed.

The manufacturer of the truck, Nebraska-based Smeal Fire Apparatus, will replace the apparently flawed parts of the hydraulic system under the warranty at no charge to the city, according to Fire Chief Roger Audette.

The truck is currently at a Smeal dealer in Connecticut undergoing repairs, including replacement of the truck’s hydraulic hoses and fittings. The truck has been out for repairs for the last three weeks and is expected back in about a week.

“Obviously we’re not happy about having our new truck out of service, but we are happy we found out what was wrong,” Audette said.

“A million-dollar fire truck obviously has some complicated systems, so it’s not uncommon for new firetrucks to have some issues. I don’t anticipate we’ll have any further issues with it. Our last ladder truck was a Smeal and we had that for 25 years with no issues. They make a good product. We believe this is an isolated incident.”

Audette said while firefighters were training on the truck during its first month in Augusta earlier this year, its hydraulic system failed twice. Hydraulics allow the ladder and related functions to move. Audette said they now believe the wrong fittings were installed on the ladder’s hydraulic system when it was manufactured.

So the company is replacing all the hydraulic hoses and fittings, which Audette said is a time-consuming project.

He noted that a failure of the hydraulic system doesn’t mean the ladder would collapse or come crashing down, and said there is also a manual system on the truck to raise and lower the ladder when needed.

The city took delivery of the truck this year after voters approved borrowing $1 million to buy it in a referendum vote in November of 2014, in which voters also approved borrowing $3.6 million to build the recently opened North Station No. 3 across from the intersection of Leighton Road and Anthony Avenue, where the new truck is expected to be kept.

A statement from Spartan Motors, parent company of Smeal, said the company regrets the difficulties reported on the new truck.

“This is an unusual situation regarding hoses and fittings on a truck with an otherwise exceptional track record of consistent performance,” said the statement from Matt Jackson, a public relations representative.

“We are working aggressively with a regional dealer to immediately replace these hoses and fittings at no cost to the fire department, as our priority is providing our first responders with the safest, most effective firetrucks on the market today. We can assure the residents of Augusta that we’ll spare no cost or effort to ensure this unit has the full confidence of Augusta officials and the community as a whole.”

The older ladder truck temporarily filling the role of the new truck, a 1991 Pierce, was purchased used by the city in 2015, after the city’s previous ladder truck blew its engine on the way back from a call.

Audette said the older truck has no problems.

In a memo to city councilors, City Manager William Bridgeo said the city had planned all along to keep the older truck operational for a year or so “for just such a contingency as this one.”

Audette said the new Smeal ladder truck hasn’t had any other problems, although he said it hasn’t been used at a building fire yet because the department hasn’t had any when it was in service.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

[email protected]

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