Why an I-75 crash could be called a lucky break for Liberty Twp.'s fire department

After a Liberty Twp. Fire Department ladder truck was hit on Interstate 75 the township finally has a replacement. The truck cost $1.3 million and insurance covered $1.28 million.
After a Liberty Twp. Fire Department ladder truck was hit on Interstate 75 the township finally has a replacement. The truck cost $1.3 million and insurance covered $1.28 million.

Passersby might have wondered if the Liberty Twp. Fire Department ladder truck ran out of gas and needed to be pushed into its bay, but the firefighters were christening their new rig in traditional fashion.

Fire Chief Ethan Klussman said the department took delivery of the new $1.3 million ladder truck several weeks ago but the firefighters have been training on and getting acclimated to the customized apparatus. On Tuesday, they had a ceremony to christen the newest member of the department, by pushing it into its bay at Station 113 on Princeton-Glendale Road.

The ceremony dates back more than 100 years when horse drawn carriages were used to fight fires. Klussman said since these trucks have a 20-year shelf life this was a “once in a career” occasion for many on the department.

“So when you look up what that tradition was whenever a fire company would get a new horse-drawn carriage or a pumper or horses it was kind of a community event," he said. "And you would have people come out and you’d celebrate it like we did and then you push it back in to symbolize it’s ready for service.”

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This truck replaces the tower that was destroyed in a crash on Interstate 75 last summer. The crash occurred in the early morning hours of July 9, 2019 after a drowsy truck driver slammed into the ladder truck following another semi crash. A firefighter was in the driver’s seat of the truck helping with traffic detail when the truck was hit. He was taken to the hospital as a precaution and released that morning.

Insurance covered $1.28 million of the cost for the new engine and the rest of the cost was spent to customize the vehicle to fit the department’s particular needs and add safety features like a 365 degree camera so the driver can see everything around the truck.

He said he is pleased with how the truck, that took about a year to build, turned out.

“This is everything we had designed it to do,” Klussman said. “We had a really good design committee that laid out everything from the way the interior of the truck is, to the cab and the compartments, even just the lettering and color scheme.”

Trustee Steve Schramm said while the crash was unfortunate, it helped the fire department’s budget.

“It is one of those odd situations where holy mackerel we just basically saved our budget for the fire department for the next two or three years by having an act of God,” Schramm said. “So I thank somebody somewhere but this is not the way you want it to be done.”

Trustee Tom Farrell said the main reason the ladder truck was on the expressway that day was to serve as a “blocker truck” to protect first responders. He said the township had just instituted the new policy two months earlier.

“There were 15 emergency people in front of that fire truck, had that fire truck not been there and that semi went through there it certainly would have taken lives," he said. “You don’t need a ladder truck on the freeway, you have all those other trucks and that ladder truck came all the way from (Ohio) 747 and (Ohio) 129. The point was that’s the best truck to use as a blocking truck.”

The township has another truck coming, this one a regular replacement engine that cost about $600,000. Klussman said that vehicle is on the assembly line right now and should be ready in January.