Before the Payson Fire Department's new ladder truck ever had a chance to be used for a local blaze, it was consumed by fire 50 miles south of town as it was being delivered.
The 1999 E-One, equipped with a 95-foot ladder, was being delivered Tuesday by Canyon State Emergencies Products when it experienced what is believed to have been an "internal fire" at milepost 205 on Highway 87.
The truck had been in service with the Phoenix Fire Department prior to being turned over to Canyon State for resale.
Payson Fire Marshal Jack Babb responded to the scene and although the driver was no longer there, he spoke with a Department of Public Safety officer.
"Evidently the driver heard a pop and saw flames coming out of the tail pipes, indicating an internal fire," Babb said.
The driver pulled off to the side of the highway and could only watch as the truck burned.
Fire Chief John Ross spent most of the afternoon in disbelief knowing that the search for another truck would be arduous.
The fire department had rented the truck with the option to purchase it in the new fiscal year beginning July 1, 2002. The purchase price for the truck was $465,000, however, since the truck had not yet been delivered, the town was not financially responsible.
Ross said the town has two options in seeking a replacement.
"Canyon State Emergencies Products is canvassing the nation for a similar truck that is our first option," Ross said.
The second option, Ross said, is to have bids submitted to possibly purchase a truck after the first of July.
With more than 55 residential and commercial buildings in Payson that are three floors or higher, the truck is a necessity to meet national standards which require a ladder truck if a community has five or more buildings three floors or higher.
Ross listed several other reasons a ladder truck is needed.
"It will allow us to effect rescues from upper floors, as well as rooftop operations by the firefighters that will be much safer," Ross said.
The ladder also will be useful for water rescues if a person is trapped in their vehicle in a flooded creek or wash. Fire insurance premiums could also be reduced, the chief said.