Lewiston’s beleaguered Engine 3 ladder truck pulls out Wednesday from the Central Fire Station on Bates Street in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — The Fire Department’s $1 million Engine 3 is expected to be back in full service next week, more than four weeks after the 107-foot ladder stopped functioning, Fire Department Chief Mark Caron said Wednesday. 

According to officials from the local firefighters union, Wednesday marked day 50 where firefighters could not operate the aerial ladder on the four-year-old truck. One union official, taking to Facebook to complain about the matter Tuesday, said the problem diminishes the department’s aerial capabilities by 50%. 

“Engine 3 defends the largest geographical fire district in the city along with the downtown,” according to a Facebook post from the Lewiston firefighters Local 785 for the International Association of Fire Fighters.

The steel ladder is capable of reaching every roof in Lewiston, helping firefighters to reach buildings that are set back from the road, as many are in the city.

The engine, a Pierce Ascendant, was purchased in 2019. The ladder is not operating properly and union officials say the Fire Department has been unable to get immediate help from the company that manufactured the truck. 

“Pierce Manufacturing of Wisconsin and Allegiance Fire and Rescue of Massachusetts are unable to provide a definitive timetable when the unit will be returned to service due to design flaws,” according to the Facebook post. “Additionally, they will not permit an outside vendor to make the repairs without voiding the nearly million dollar vehicle’s warranty — the truck has 91 hours of aerial use and the aerial portion of the vehicle is now essentially useless.” 


Union President Capt. Rick Cailler said the union was originally told on Monday that it would be another two to four months before Pierce can get parts to repair the truck.

However, Chief Caron disputed that notion Wednesday afternoon.

“I will tell you that Engine 3 is in service as the district engine,” Caron said. “It experienced a failure with the aerial in July and we have been waiting for parts availability since. Those parts are in transit from the factory now and we expect the vehicle to be repaired next week … The issue was determining what caused the failure and parts availability, both of which have been resolved.”

Cailler on Wednesday said he is taking the chief at his word and expects that the ladder will be repaired next week. But he and other fire officials are still troubled by the fact that it took almost two months to get the parts, leaving Lewiston with just one ladder truck operating from the central station.

“It’s important that we have two ladders because that allows us, especially in the downtown, to attack a fire from two separate areas,” Cailler said. “Or if that ladder is on another call, right now we have no other ladder truck.”

The Lewiston Fire Department’s entire fleet is comprised of Pierce trucks.


Representatives from Pierce did not immediately return phone messages left Wednesday.

Engine 3 is one of two aerial ladder trucks in the Lewiston Fire Department’s fleet. The truck is seen in 2019 when it was purchased for $1 million. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

When fire officials first brought Engine 3 to Lewiston, it was touted as a great step forward in firefighting capability. The new ladder isn’t just longer than its predecessor, fire officials said at the time, it’s smoother as well. With a 500-pound tip load, the ladder can accommodate two firefighters. The ladder is faster to deploy — it takes about one minute. 

Engine 3 is used to protect South Lewiston, while also being called into service in other districts. 

“South Lewiston is a very diverse district,” one fire official wrote when he advocated for purchasing the Ascendant in 2019. “It consists of a large dense mixed single- and multi-family residential area, the largest industrial park in the city, a large rural non-hydrant area, and we also cover the Maine Turnpike.” 

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