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Fire Chief Has New Equipment, Old Worries

Kevin Killeen
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St. Louis fire chief Dennis Jenkerson surveys the situation during a five alarm fire in an apartment building in St. Louis on July 17, 2012. Nearly 200 apartments in the complex were involved after a fire spread throughout the roof of the buildings. No injuries were reported. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

St. Louis fire chief Dennis Jenkerson surveys the situation during a five alarm fire in an apartment building in St. Louis on July 17, 2012. Nearly 200 apartments in the complex were involved after a fire spread throughout the roof of the buildings. No injuries were reported. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX)–Standing on the brink of a hot summer, Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson says the fleet is ready, the firefighters are ready, but there’s always something to worry about.

The department recently replaced nine pumper trucks, refurbished nine others, and added two new ladder trucks — for a total of five ladder trucks able to reach 125 feet high.

That’s high enough to reach the 8th floor of a high rise fire, Jenkerson said. How to fight a high rise fire has been the subject of ongoing training with other departments.

“We coordinated with Chicago and New York and looked for some of those issues,” Jenkerson said, “That’s been an ongoing discussion for a couple of years now, so I think we’re in a pretty good position for fighting a high rise fire.”

St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson.  (KMOX/file photo)

St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson. (KMOX/file photo)

What worries Jenkerson the most is firefighters getting hurt in abandoned building fires where crews have to go in to check for occupants.

“People say, ‘oh, it’s vacant why do you go in there?’ But we have quite a few homeless people at night they seek shelter in these buildings,” Jenkerson said, “We still have to go in and check these buildings. With some of the conditions of some of the older buildings that’s always a concern — somebody making a wrong turn, steps falling through, holes in the floors.”

The Chief says the department also added a 27-foot boat for water rescues, and plans to get a 47-foot fire boat capable of fighting fires on the river in September.

The fire department also manages the city’s ambulance fleet. Jenkerson says they have a dozen ambulances on the streets every day with eight back up ambulances. Most of the city’s ambulances are about for years old and will need to be replaced in a year or so, Jenkerson says.

Copyright KMOX.

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