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Monday, January 26, 2009

Boston Firefighter’s Union Calls for Statewide Truck Inspection

Second Truck with Brake Problems Taken Out of Service; Union Blames Aging Vehicles

In the aftermath of a crash that killed a firefighter, mandatory ladder truck inspections began in Boston's fire departments. The first Boston fire ladder truck to be inspected had a mechanical problem with its brakes and was taken out of service.

A linkage problem was discovered in Ladder 14's brakes, said Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald. The problems were not with the brakes themselves, but rather with the system that makes sure brakes on all four wheels are activated simultaneously. Only one other truck was examined on Monday, and it passed inspection, MacDonald said.

"We'll start again tomorrow morning. This is probably going to take a couple of weeks to go through the entire fleet," he said. To speed up the process of checking out the fire department's fleet of 22 ladder trucks, 33 engines and two rescue units, officials were trying to locate a second inspection shop.

A brake system inspection on the city's fire trucks was ordered by Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser after a ladder truck lost control down a steep hill and crashed into an apartment building. Lt. Kevin Kelley, who occupied the passenger seat, died instantly and three more firefighters were injured.

Investigators believe the crash may have been caused by brake failure.

MacDonald said the truck that was taken out of service is the same type and make as the truck involved in the fatal crash.

The Boston Firefighters Union blamed the crash on department negligence in replacing aging trucks. The truck involved in the fatal accident was a 1995 model, while the truck that failed inspection is a 1993 model.

On a recent Sunday morning, a ladder truck smashed into a parked car outside fire department headquarters. There were no injuries in that accident or in a Jan. 1 incident, when another ladder truck crashed into a fence after the driver lost control of the truck.

Edward Kelly, president of Local 718, said he is concerned about the frequency of crashes, but he did not know what caused them.

The union has called on Gov. Deval Patrick to order a statewide inspection. Patrick said he would work with city leaders to make sure the firefighters have the resources they need. "We are here to help in any way that we can," he said. "Obviously we share an interest as everyone does in the safety of the firefighters and the adequacy of the equipment.”

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