Mitchell fire department seeks new ladder truckCurrent vehicle is 30 years old and needs replacement, chief says.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Mayor Ken Tracy said a 30-year-old Mitchell Fire Division ladder truck may need to be replaced soon. Tracy said the truck, which seems to be stuck together with “baling wire and duct tape,” is long overdue for a replacement. It’s a 1982 model and was purchased in 1983 for $238,000, according to Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg. It has an 85-foot ladder that allows firefighters to battle fires over both tall and wide structures.
“It is in need of replacement,” Overweg said. “A new or almost new 100-foot ladder truck will cost approximately $750,000.”
Tracy agreed with the need to obtain a new ladder truck before this one breaks down or falls below national standards.
“It’s on borrowed time,” Tracy said. “They have to use some baling wire and duct tape to get it to pass inspection every year.”
A Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters Grant could pay for part of the replacement truck. On Monday night, the City Council authorized the Mitchell Fire Division to apply for the grant, as it did in 2010 and 2011.
“Maybe the third time will be the charm,” said Assistant Fire Chief Paul Morris.
The city set aside $350,000 for the ladder truck for the 2012 budget, Morris said.
The FEMA grant requires a 5 percent local match, but he said by offering a 47 percent match for a $750,000 ladder truck, Mitchell may stand a better chance this time. There are two parts of the process: a computer process that winnows out applicants, and a peer review to decide what fire departments will get a grant.
Mitchell will learn its fate sometime this fall, according to Morris.
Tracy said the city’s offer to contribute nearly half the money should be “a big plus for us” in getting the grant.
“I’m optimistic we will make the grade this time,” he said. “That would be tremendous to get the balance for the ladder truck this time.”
Monday night, Overweg said the city might get another year out of the ladder truck, but it needs to be replaced. Morris said the city may need to have a “Plan B” in place if the grant money doesn’t come in.
Morris said the truck is called out about 30 times a year and is actually used around a dozen times annually.
Capt. Ben Vanden Hoek said he has grown used to working on the truck — “It just takes a little getting used to” — but said he would welcome a newer one with more safety features.
Firefighting equipment is judged on standards set by the National Fire Protection Association. While there is no law against using equipment that doesn’t meet NFPA guidelines, they are considered the national standard.
“That’s the only thing that is out there,” Morris said.
He said if the city used equipment that didn’t qualify for NFPA standards, it could have a dire cost. In a civil suit, a lawyer would be quick allege the city didn’t maintain its equipment properly, Morris said.
Mitchell has done so, he said, and it has spent thousands of dollars over the years to keep the ladder truck at NFPA standards.
The truck must meet the requirements from the year it was built, Morris said, not the current standards.
If the city obtains a new truck, it will try to sell the ladder truck it has now. But if the truck does not meet NFPA standards, the city may not be allowed to sell it to an active department that fights fire.
A demonstrator ladder truck was brought to Mitchell in June and an employee of the firm Rosenbauer America showed the firefighters and Tracy the advantages of a new ladder truck, as well as the improved safety features.
The new 101-foot platform truck is the kind the city would buy, Morris said.
“One very similar to that if not that,” he said.
Morris said the man laughed when shown the city’s current ladder truck.
“He said, ‘Hey, it’s a 30-year-old truck, it’s time to be replaced,’ ” Morris said.
He said no firefighters have been injured while using the truck. Repairs have been made and the cracks that have appeared have been welded. Two years ago, the city spent $9,000 to replace a pump on the truck.
Morris said one thing is worth keeping in mind. Firefighters have 60 pounds of gear on when they are asked to get on the ladder and battle a raging fire.
When they do so, one thing can pop into their minds:
“Hey, this thing’s 30 years old.”