• Hunter Cresswell

Ladder truck would help fight third storey, dense development fires

Chelsea Fire Department Chief Charles Ethier said it would be easier to fight fires in tall buildings and dense neighbourhoods if they had a ladder truck.


New ladder trucks cost between $900,000 and $1.5 million – about half the price tag of the $3 million community trail.


In a March interview with The Low Down, Ethier said it would be easier for the volunteer fire department to fight fires on the third storey of buildings and in such dense residential areas as Hendrick Farm from above using a fire engine with a ladder attachment.


Chelsea Fire Department Chief Charles Ethier. Photo courtesy the municipality of Chelsea
Chelsea Fire Department Chief Charles Ethier. Photo courtesy the municipality of Chelsea

Multiple requests for a follow-up interview with Ethier to clarify his statement were denied by the municipality.


“Yes, the Chelsea fire department is equipped to fight fires in those situations. In a dense development or a third storey of a building, the strategy will just be different,” Chelsea communications officer Maude Prud’homme-Séguin wrote in an April email.


She then highlighted the benefits of having a ladder truck, something Chelsea doesn’t have.


“A ladder truck will help in a situation where there is a fire on a roof because it’s easier to put water from a high vantage point, then trying from ground level. Also, with steep and metal roofs and the proximity of residences, it’s harder to access and reach residences with portable ladders and it’s more dangerous to ventilate a burning house. In these situations, ladder trucks will be more effective in fire combat than using portable ladders, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done without,” Prud’homme-Séguin wrote.


According to the most recent census, 6,909 people lived in Chelsea in 2016. According to the Québec Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Habitation website, 7,465 people call Chelsea home now. A more accurate count of the municipal population is underway by Statistics Canada as part of the 2021 census. That number will likely be higher, as multiple large residential projects have been approved in Chelsea since 2016 and are in various stages of development.


Ethier said he hopes to buy another fire engine next year and a ladder truck in the next two or three years.


Jean-Paul Leduc, a Chelsea councillor and former firefighter, said he sees a future need for more firefighting equipment in Chelsea such as a ladder truck because of higher population density.


“Right now the equipment that’s there is the equipment that’s needed to do the proper work,” Leduc, the Ward 5 councillor, said. “The bigger we get, the service will need to get bigger too.”


Leduc said that the municipality is doing a “progressive inventory” of fire trucks to get rid of the oldest first and replace them with newer models — one stationed in Farm Point is about 30 years old and nearing the end of its service.


“You have to order in advance, you don’t get it just overnight,” he said about the purchasing process, which requires council approval.


Prud’homme-Séguin wrote that the delivery of new trucks can take up to a year and a half because of the bidding process and other factors.


“The department's current priorities include the purchase of various equipment s including the replacement of a pumper truck and a tanker truck by 2023,” she wrote. “The ladder truck would be useful throughout the territory, but especially in the centre village because of the density, the commercial and residential development, and the presence of the water system [fire hydrants]. For the moment, this purchase is planned in the next Triennal Capital Expenses program. The municipality is evaluating the possibility of making a [bylaw] in order to create a reserve that will be used for this purchase and thus reduce the cost to be assumed by the citizens.”


In 2016, with 33 firefighters and a budget of $916,140, the fire department responded to 210 calls. In 2020, with about 40 firefighters and a budget of $1,237,112, the fire department responded to 238 calls.