Walker County, Ga., Fire Chief Randy Camp remembers when a resident wondered why the fire agency needed a ladder truck when there aren't any skyscrapers around.
Camp knew the man's church had a towering steeple, so he had an answer.
"If that steeple's on fire, how can I get a hose stream to it?"
Ladder trucks aren't needed every day, Camp said, but he's used one for tasks such as retrieving a person in a hang glider dangling from a tree.
And a ladder truck would be just the ticket to fight a fire on the roof of a broad building such as a flooring factory.
"When you need it, nothing else replaces it," Camp said.
So the fire chief and County Coordinator David Ashburn are excited to have a new, $640,000 combination ladder truck and fire engine on the way.
On Thursday, County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell accepted a low bid from KME Fire Apparatus in Nesquehoning, Pa., to build it. Camp expects it will be delivered on Oct. 1.
Normally, a ladder truck must be connected to a fire engine, which has a pump, but the one Walker County ordered is a combo.
"In most cases, they're two independent trucks," Ashburn said. "This is both."
The custom-built vehicle will have a water tank that holds 750 gallons; most tanks hold between 300 to 500 gallons.
"We don't have a lot of hydrants," Camp explained. "About 90 percent of our properties don't have hydrants."
Camp said the new vehicle will go to the Chickamauga fire station, and the 18-year-old ladder truck that's there now will be moved to Station 15 on South Highway 27 to replace a 30-year-old ladder truck there.
The fire department also will be able to retire a 1982-model fire engine at the Chickamauga station. So the new ladder truck will take the place of two vehicles, which will save on insurance, fuel and parts, Camp said.
A $650,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant is covering the entire cost of the new ladder truck. Walker County also received a $420,000 federal grant to rebuild firefighters' breathing apparatus and buy air tanks good for 30 years and an $8,000 grant for a community emergency response team.
"So in this year, we've gotten $1.7 million in grants," Ashburn said. "We did a good job at that."
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.