CHATHAM – With the arrival of a new ambulance and two new pumper trucks, the fire department finds itself with one of the most up-to-date vehicle fleets in the area.
When the department's tower truck, which went into service just about a year ago, is factored in, more than half of its vehicles are new.
That's unusual, since the department typically spreads out its vehicle purchases. However, there was a longer-than-usual stretch during which the department didn't replace older vehicles, and the two pumpers that are being replaced are 30 and 32 years old, said Chief Peter Connick.
The good news is that the two Rosenbauer pumpers cost the town $525,000 rather than $1 million. Connick was able to get a federal grant to pay for all but 5 percent of one of the half-million-dollar vehicles.
The new Ford ambulance, which replaces a six-year-old vehicle, cost $240,000. The town has three ambulances, one of which is replaced every two years.
The two new diesel-powered pumpers are “twins,” said Connick. “Everything was built identical on them.” That means the various equipment is interchangeable and firefighters don't have to remember how to drive two different vehicles. The engines are also slightly shorter than the older pumpers, are more maneuverable, more passenger space and have more modern equipment; one has a remote control exterior lighting array that in most cases will eliminate the need to set up light towers to illuminate a nighttime incident, Connick said.
There's a mix of existing and new equipment in the pumpers. Old sirens, which are more durable than modern ones, were taken off the old engines and mounted on the new pumpers, Connick said. New extrication equipment is included in the upcoming budget for both vehicles. Connick said some of the department's extrication equipment dates to the late 1970s and isn't strong enough to work with the way modern cars are constructed.
The town's oldest engine is now a 2001 pumper, which will be stationed in South Chatham as a reserve vehicle. “They had to move a wall in the back” of the tiny South Chatham station to fit the pumper, Connick said. There's funding in the upcoming budget to keep up repairs on that vehicle, though Connick said he's not sure if it's worth the cost. The department's capital plan calls for replacing the old pumper in three years.
The new pumpers should have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years, Connick said; one is already in use and the other is expected to be put into service this week.
“We're pretty excited to get these,” the chief said.