by Photo by Sarah Berjan

After 17 years of front line service, Chula Vista Fire Department’s straight Truck 51 is replaced by a $1.5 million Pierce Tractor Drawn Aerial (Tiller) Truck 51 on Oct. 28, launched the same day. 

Both Tiller 51 and Chula Vista Fire Station Three were funded by Measure P, a ten-year half-cent tax, passed by Chula Vista voters in 2016, funding high priority infrastructure needs. 

“We want the best service in our community. We’ve seen over time because of the passage of measure P, and because of the passage of Measure A which allows us to hire the wonderful staff that we have now to run that equipment, we’ve seen our response times to citizens have gone down and that is what it’s about. It’s about providing the best possible service to our community and making sure that we provide a safe environment for them,” Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas said.  

Fire Station One in Northwest Chula Vista was the intended home for the apparatus. Due to its size, Tiller 51 will remain in Downtown Chula Vista at Fire Station Three. Straight Truck 51 will now serve in reserve capacity. 

Council woman Jill Galvez, whose district is home to Fire Station One, said remodeling for Fire Station one is underway in the coming months. Tiller 51 stands 11 feet, 4 inches high and is 57 feet, 8 inches long. The apparatus as whole weighs 36.9 tons and it has a top speed of 60 miles an hour. 

Fire Chief Harry Muns said this style of apparatus originated in the 1800’s and it’s a tradition the fire department “just can't let go of”.  

“When they made this kind of apparatus in the 1800’s, they did it right the first time. That is what keeps this kind of vehicle in service. It’s really an iconic style and anyone in the public would recognize it as being a traditional apparatus. It really is the most capable and most effective for our fire department to work safely, and provide the best service possible in our community,” Muns said. 

Tiller 51, a vehicle newly built in 2021, has an engine of 525 HP Detroit diesel with Jake Brake and a six-speed Allison transmission. It features both an engine driver in the front of the vehicle and the Tiller driver in the rear section which will offer more maneuverability on City Street 

Auto-extrication tools that are battery and hydraulically operated will be offered, such as the jaws of life and Anti-Collision software for a 107- foot aerial ladder capable of reaching more than seven stories. Additionally, it will be equipped with Advanced Life Support Equipment, ventilation and forcible entry equipment, salvage and overhaul equipment and a command tablet with advanced mapping and dispatch software. 

“I’m not just a supporter” said councilman John McCann while sharing a near death experience in 2003 after his white Saturn was "t-boned" by a street racer driving over double the speed limit in a 35 miles per hour space. The first reported call to the CVFD in the City of Chula Vista involving a paramedic was McCann’s accident. 

“I’m just so grateful for not only the firefighters who have been able to make so many accomplishments of putting paramedics in fire stations but the staffing, being able to bring in new equipment, stations and engines,” McCann said. 

The Chula Vista Fire Department’s ten stations serves a population of 281,000 in over 52 square mile radius and responds to nearly 19,000 calls to service annually. With a total of 65 personnel daily covering 24 hours a day, the CVPF is dispatched for all 911 calls for service using Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) technology allows for residents to receive high levels of service within the most rapid time. 


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