Firehouse® Magazine recently asked a sampling of fire chiefs for their opinions about apparatus purchasing, especially in light of the current economic situation. We selected chiefs from various regions to gain a snapshot of what fire departments are doing to maintain and upgrade their...
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Firehouse® Magazine recently asked a sampling of fire chiefs for their opinions about apparatus purchasing, especially in light of the current economic situation. We selected chiefs from various regions to gain a snapshot of what fire departments are doing to maintain and upgrade their fleets. Additionally, we wanted to learn how new safety and environmental-protection equipment is performing in the field, with the idea of sharing what's working and what's not.
The roundtable interviews were conducted by Firehouse® Staff Writer Ed Ballam.
Q: What impact, if any, have current economic conditions had regarding your annual apparatus purchasing to replace in-service units?
DICKERSON: Lexington is considering rehab of some units, especially ambulances, in the future to extend their life and improve safety and performance instead of purchasing new units. We may also be forced to push back some of the purchases currently expected in our Apparatus Replacement Plan. We are fortunate to have a replacement plan that is supported by the city manager and mayor and council and has some annual contributions toward its funding, even if it is not 100%.
ESTER: The life cycle on all of our vehicles has been extended by two years, with light vehicles going a minimum of nine years and heavy apparatus going 17 years. We have been fortunate to continue our fleet-replacement program without significant impact, but are reviewing underutilized vehicles in the fleet (less than 5,000 miles per year) for reassignment or elimination.
MCGRATH: We have had to cancel a new pumper that was awarded through the bid process and are now restricted from purchasing any future apparatus due to the economy.
REEVES: Trying to keep new apparatus coming into the fleet in the current economic climate presents some daunting challenges. For Syracuse, the key to success has been long-range planning. Starting in 1997, we established a six-year Capital Improvements Program for apparatus replacement that is updated every fiscal year. It calls for the acquisition, in alternating years, of two engines and one in a continuous cycle. Specialized apparatus, such as heavy rescues or hazmat vehicles, are requested according to a prudent replacement schedule.
With the current difficult economy, we have had to scale back during some years — but having a long-range plan has enabled us to provide the City Council with a well-thought-out plan with no surprises. The plan and the need for the apparatus it contains have been well-explained and justified to them, and they understand the difficulty that continually putting off major apparatus purchases will bring. Having that multi-year program enables them to work with us to keep at least some new apparatus coming within the limits of fiscal responsibility. It's my job to keep them educated on what we need, why we need it and what it will cost both if we buy it and if we don't.
I try to avoid buying more than two or three major units in any one year, as they will all grow old and need replacement at the same time and that may not be possible. A few apparatus at a time in a rolling replacement program has worked well for us and for the city, giving us some flexibility in the procurement schedule while still meeting the needs of our department and the citizens we serve.
ROUTLEY: We have been very fortunate in Canada that the economic crisis has not been as severe as the United States has experienced. We were able to complete a five-year apparatus-replacement program that included 40 pumpers and 30 aerial ladders, with delivery of the last 10 units expected in the coming months. We have delayed the purchase of a few specials units that were planned for 2011; however, we are still planning to move ahead with the next five-year replacement program.
Q: What has been your department's experience with apparatus equipped with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2007 emissions engines in your fleet?
DICKERSON: We do not currently have any in our fleet at this time.