Highland Park unveils $1M fire truck 5 years after last one went up in flames

Hani Barghouthi
The Detroit News

Highland Park — The city of Highland Park has added a $1 million truck to its firefighting fleet, the first new vehicle for its Fire Department since a private resident donated one nine years ago. 

The city received about $850,000 from the state to buy Ladder 1 with the help of state Rep. Helena Scott, D-Detroit, according to Highland Park Mayor Hubert Yopp. 

The truck, a 2018 Rosenbauer that can carry 700 gallons of water and boasts a 109-foot ladder, will help the city put out fires and rescue people more efficiently, Yopp said, allowing it to use its own apparatus and avoid relying on cities like Detroit and Hamtramck with which is has mutual aid agreements. 

Highland Park Fire Chief Erik Hollowell, left, and fire fighter Billy Galvin, go through equipment in tool compartments of Ladder 1, Thursday, March 3, 2022.
Images of the Rosenbauer Commander Ladder Truck, new to the Highland Park Fire Department.

Yopp said the truck, which the city added in February, would allow the city not just to fight fires by dumping water on them from above, but rescue people trapped on higher floors of buildings.

If someone was stuck on the sixth floor of the Medical Arts Building on Woodward Avenue, he said as an example, the department could dispatch the ladder immediately and bring them down.  

"It’s a piece of apparatus that every city should have, so we’re just blessed to get it," said Yopp. 

The department has not had a ladder truck since its only one caught flames and was destroyed in 2017, according to Fire Chief Erik Hollowell. 

Ladder 1 is the newest fire apparatus at the Highland Park Fire Department.

That ladder truck replaced the last new truck the city owned, which was donated by a resident in 2013. They bought its replacement, which would end up burning, with insurance money in 2014. 

"From that point on it was just going backwards and backwards and backwards," said Hollowell. 

It was involved in an accident a year later, and the city used the insurance money to buy the used ladder truck, which served them for about three years before it was destroyed, he said. 

So far in 2022, the department has responded to some 120 calls, including structural, vehicle and trash fires, Hollowell said. In 2021, that number was 912, with one recorded civilian death. 

With budget constraints limiting the ability to buy their own equipment, Hollowell said the city's firefighters have consistently had to operate used fire engines that were donated to them by other departments, including Bloomfield Hills. 

"We’re taking trucks that are 15, 20 years old and we're trying to run them as if they're brand new," said Hollowell. "Fire trucks take a lot of wear and tear, they get beat down quite a bit."

The city currently uses two donated engine trucks, in addition to the new ladder. More, newer equipment would be helpful, Yopp said, but what the city really needs is more personnel in their fire and police departments. 

When Hollowell became chief in 2019, he said the mayor gave him the nod to seek funding for the new truck. He still has a "mountain of paperwork" he filled out to detail issues they had with the existing apparatus to explain the need for the new truck. 

"We now have something that is reliable, that actually works and fits our needs," he said. 

Highland Park Fire Chief Erik Hollowell in front of Ladder 1 in March.

Ladder trucks run at over $1 million, and engines will cost around half of that. 

"It’s nothing to say you spent a million dollars on a fire truck," Hollowell said. "Fire trucks are extremely expensive, but they also last you for 20 years if you take care of them."

The new truck will help the department better support nearby cities, too, Hollowell and Yopp agreed. 

"If Ferndale were to call and say they have somebody trapped, I would send this truck there," Hollowell said. "We’re all in this together, man."


Twitter: @HaniBarghouthi