Opinion: Brandon Fire Department sorely needs new vehicle

During this year’s round of vehicle inspections, the firetruck repair company discovered a number of serious safety issues with our main fire engine, known as Engine 1. This is the workhorse of our department, carrying six firefighters, one officer and one firefighter/driver to the scene of any call, along with 1,500 gallons of water with the capacity to pump 1,500 gallons per minute.
This engine was purchased used in 2004 and is a 1992 model. In the last few years, as with any older vehicle it has required major work including engine rebuilding and pump repairs. It has consumed the majority of our truck repair budget over the last 5 years. The most recent discovery was that it needed major work to the springs, tie rods and overall suspension of the truck. These deficiencies are so severe we could not keep the truck in service without addressing them.
In evaluating the age of the truck, expected remaining service life, and the probability of the repair facility discovering additional work needed when they began the repairs, it was decided that it would not be fiscally responsible to continue to put large amounts of money into a truck that, even with the repairs, could not be expected to remain in service much longer. The truck is no longer qualified as a first-line pumper by the National Fire Protection Association due to its age, and there are legal issues to consider when operating this truck as a first-line pumper as we have been. Without an engine with its capabilities, the town’s ISO (Insurance Service Organization) rating would be raised. This rating is used to determine town residents and business insurance premiums. When the ISO rating is raised, insurance premiums go up.
The decision was made by the chief and the Prudential Board to take the truck out of service, and look for a quickly available replacement. “Quickly available” in purchasing a firetruck can mean a number of months, even a year. We were fortunate to look at some “demo” trucks. “Demo” trucks are newly built trucks that are driven to fire shows, and to “demonstrate” to departments who are looking to purchase new engines. These are not always easy to find.
We were fortunate to find a 2015 HME engine, with the same seating capacity as Engine 1, carrying 1,000 gallons of water, a 1,750 gallon-per-minute pump capacity and with hose line configurations and compartment configurations that meet our needs. The chief and the board negotiated a price of $385,000 for the truck and the decision was made to buy the truck. Engines with these capabilities can easily be priced anywhere from $400,000 to $700,000. One department in the county recently purchased an engine similar to this for $600,000. The truck is expected to be here within the next few weeks.
This purchase will not increase the current budget that was passed in January. Monies that were already earmarked for truck replacement will be used for this purchase, plus funds that are built into this line item over the next few years will complete this purchase with no planned increase in the fire tax. The 2015 model year truck will come with all warranties as a new truck and will save us money in the long run on lowered repair bills.
The reason for this letter is to foster transparency and continue to have the support and trust of the citizens of Brandon. The department would not be able to do the things we do without your trust and support. If you have any questions about this or other matters concerning the fire department please contact me at [email protected].
Roman Wdowiak
Brandon Fire Department

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