A new firefighter in town

San Luis Obispo firefighters are training this week with the city’s new $1 million fire truck, which will soon be the first-response vehicle for all fire and medical emergencies downtown and in surrounding areas.

The shiny red 100-foot ladder truck has a number of features that the 17-year-old existing ladder truck doesn’t have, including an additional 25 feet of ladder and a tillered body that will allow it to access areas in the city that were once unapproachable.

Fire personnel say the additional 25 feet of ladder can be the difference between life and death when facing a fire in taller buildings such as Cal Poly’s newest dorms at Poly Canyon Village, which are five stories high and set back from the road.

The additional ladder height will also be needed for the future Garden Street Terraces and Chinatown developments, Chief John Callahan said.

Cal Poly is contributing $25,000 annually to the cost of the new truck during its five-year contract with the city for fire services.

Because the truck is tillered — the front of the truck essentially pulls an attached trailer — it has two separate steering wheels for the front and the back.

A group of firefighters recently maneuvered the truck between orange cones set up in a vacant Cal Poly parking lot. They learned how to coordinate the two drivers and get accustomed to the truck’s 64-foot length. The previous truck was only 34 feet long.

The new truck is more maneuverable, has a tighter turning radius and has higher ground clearance, Callahan said.

“There are some streets that we just couldn’t go on, called ‘no-go streets,’ because of the angled departure,” fire Capt. Pat Brady said. “This truck has a lot more forgiveness to get where we need to go.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939.