The gift from Portland Fire & Rescue augments Columbia County's response to emergency situations.

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Scappoose Fire Chief Jeff Pricher stands in front of his department's ladder truck.Thanks to the generosity of Portland Fire & Rescue, the Scappoose Rural Fire Protection District has a shiny ladder truck to help battle stubborn fires or rescue citizens from peril.

The ladder truck is a gift from Portland Fire, at no cost to Scappoose. It's not the first time Portland Fire has helped its Columbia County neighbor, either.

According to Scappoose Fire Chief Jeff Pricher, Portland Fire has donated two ladder trucks to Scappoose over the years, the first arriving in 2008.

During this time, "Scappoose started getting more industry," Pricher said. "The city of Portland was about to surplus a ladder truck."

After Portland Fire officials contacted then-Chief Mike Greisen to see if Scappoose firefighters would be interested in the truck, the Scappoose Fire District gladly accepted Portland's offer and took ownership of the truck.

"It was a 1980s-era Tebow ladder truck," Pricher recalled.

Then came the need for another fire truck, due to ongoing maintenance costs of the older vehicle and the challenge of getting parts for a truck that was over two decades old.

"Portland had another ladder truck. This time, it was one with a bucket," Pricher said, noting that a truck with a bucket is a lot safer and offers additional capabilities, such as in rescue operations.

That ladder truck was donated to Scappoose, also at no cost.

Pricher added, "The vehicle we have now is about 10 years newer than the previous one. It's a 1990 Sutphen and has served our community very well. But we're getting to the point where maintenance is going to start picking up on this thing and we need to decide, as a community, (whether this is) something we still need and want to support. The last maintenance bill was over $14,000."

A ladder truck can help a fire agency in many ways, including lowering insurance costs.

"What most people don't understand is that there is this organization called the Insurance Services Office, also known as ISO," Pricher said. "They rate communities and evaluate them on fire protection, commonly known as the Fire Suppression Ratings Schedule. This ISO rating has two very important components to it: one, how it affects residential insurance rates, and the other is how it affects commercial insurance rates."

The higher the number, Pricher said, the more a customer will pay for insurance. The lower the number, insurance costs are lower.

"A ladder truck is a key component of the ISO rating for the community," Pricher said. "Right now we are at an ISO Class 3, which is exceptional for a community of our size and the amount of staffing we have."

He added, "If we lost the ladder truck, we would probably go back up to 5, maybe a 4, but we would probably be a 5, which would cause everybody to have higher insurance premiums."

The current ladder truck is a "people mover," as Pricher describes it.

"We can carry six people on the apparatus," the chief said, "and we have a full complement of ladders, whereas most of our engines usually carry two."

The truck has eight ladders and can help firefighting efforts as Scappoose continues to grow.

"The Scappoose Fire District is going to have two new three-story apartment buildings, with more planned in the near future," Pricher said. "A lot of these buildings are either landlocked or they're hard to access. In order to get to the roof, because of the design of these properties, the only way we can get there would be a ladder truck."

He also noted, "The boom on the ladder truck, or the truss, allows us to do rescue work that we would never be able to do without it."

The ladder can reach about 100 feet, with an 80-foot reach horizontally.

"While we do not have any 100-foot-tall buildings, it is the reach that is most important," Pricher said. "Buildings are set back 20 to 30 feet, and in a lot of cases now, when the vehicle sets up, the distance also includes having to reach over parked vehicles."

Pricher notes that his department's ladder truck is the only true ladder truck in Columbia County.

"We are a mutual-aid partner not just with Portland, but also with the whole county," he said, referring to the principle under which an emergency response agency will provide service in another jurisdiction free of charge, at least for up to 24 hours, if the need arises. "Anybody in the county that requests a ladder truck, we go."

Pricher added, "As a small agency that is constantly required to do more with less, our neighbors in Portland have positively impacted our community with their help. We are humbled and grateful for their support."PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - The latest ladder truck in Scappoose is standing by in case of a fire or rescue call.

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