Mumbai Fire Brigade's tallest ladder fails to reach full height

Expected to rise to 90m, fire brigade’s latest ladder fell 10m short during mock drill but invited the ‘oohs!’ anyway

It was a spectacle worth watching, even if the Mumbai Fire Brigade’s tallest darling — the newly inducted 90 mts ladder — did not manage to reach its full height on Saturday.

30 officials from the Mumbai Fire Brigade got to test their tallest ladder. Pic/Shadab Khan
30 officials from the Mumbai Fire Brigade got to test their tallest ladder. Pic/Shadab Khan

The ladder, manufactured by Bronto Skylift, was damaged during shipping from Finland, but the fire brigade claimed that its capacity, length or efficiency in firefighting operations would not be hampered.

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While temporary repairs were made to the ladder amidst claims that it can be raised up to its desired height, the ladder fell short by 10m during a mock drill conducted at the World Trade Centre (WTC) on Saturday.

Performance test
The fire brigade held a demonstration at WTC, where 30 fire officials and operators got to test the training they had received over the last few days. Rolling the vehicle out of Byculla fire station to Cuffe Parade involved managing Saturday morning traffic over JJ Flyover.

The firemen wanted to avoid risk on the narrow flyover and preferred going via Marine Drive. While there was no hiccup in the journey as the six-axle vehicle moved at 50 kmph on city roads, traffic along Nariman Point’s narrow roads slowed it down.

After reaching WTC, chief fire officer PS Rahangdale got to test the ladder and practice operation and rescue at 80m. Other firemen and the WTC staff, could go up to 60 to 70m. Drivers also got a taste of running the massive vehicle on Mumbai roads for the first time.

The vehicle’s water ejecting capacity was also tested with a water tanker connected to the vehicle. Water jets sprayed water at 3,800 litres per minute, going a distance of 40 feet.

RA Chaudhari, assistant divisional fire officer (technical), and project in-charge, said, “Even if the operator gets injured in fire-fighting, there is another set of controls at the base which can help maneuver the ladder.”

The broken ladder
The brigade maintained that it was high wind velocity which affected the ladder’s length and it had nothing to do with the crack caused during transportation in one of its booms. The boom will now be replaced by the manufacturer, and the cost will be recovered through insurance.

The ladder operates with the help of three booms which dismantle slowly to reach 90m. “We have made temporary repairs and it is functioning fine. The crack will not affect firefighting operations,” he said.

The timeline
8 am: Last practice at Byculla fire station
8.30 am: Ladder and fire engines leave Byculla, drive at 50 kmph
8.50 am: Teams and ladder reach WTC via Marine Drive, start preparations
9.30 am: First batch of five firemen undergo training
12 noon: 30 firemen, along with WTC staff, finish training, including using the ladder and practicing rope rescue
12.10 pm: Water jets shot into air
1 pm: Operations wrapped up

Vital stats
500m: Distance from which ladder can be operated through remote control, ensuring operator is not injured 
Rs 16 cr: Cost of ladder
90m: Length of ladder
16.5m: Length of vehicle
2.55m: Vehicle width
4.15m: Travelling height
52 tonne: Weight of the vehicle
500 kg: Weight platform of ladder can take
5: Number that can be rescued using ladder at a time
15 years: Life of vehicle, as per RTO rules

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