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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All material costs have increased, from fluids to tires and everything in between. As the budget is at the forefront of everyone's mind, we will work to remind our folks of how their actions can directly affect the bottom line. Driving habits and preventable accidents are two areas we can influence with minimal effort.
MCGRATH: We have experienced an increase in maintenance costs and general wear and tear due to the fact that we also do first-responder medical calls with our pumpers, rescues and ladder trucks.
REEVES: In 1961, the Syracuse Fire Department answered approximately 5,000 alarms with 21 engines, eight trucks and about 500 personnel. In 2010, we answered over 25,000 alarms with 10 engines, six trucks and fewer than 400 personnel. The private-sector theme of doing more and more with less and less is very familiar to us all.
We respond to these alarms over roads that are falling apart year by year and competing for that crumbling road space with some citizen we are sworn to serve and protect who has a cell phone in one ear and a 2,000-watt stereo threatening to blow his back window out at any moment. He has one eye on his GPS, one eye on his iPod and no thought for the massive piece of fire apparatus that's right behind him.
Most of the increased size of that fire apparatus today is due to the ever-expanding mission they are asked to perform — it really is that simple. If you want to go back to smaller, simpler apparatus, you are not going to be able to carry everything we typically carry. It doesn't require a genius to determine that a formula made up of larger, more complex fire apparatus combined with responding to a much greater number of alarms over increasingly deteriorated roads will equal increased maintenance costs.
We have instituted fleet-management and diagnostic software to track and plan our work, control our inventory of parts, and increase our efficiency. It's an uphill battle, but it's one we must continue to win. We have been able to extend the service life of our major apparatus through both in-house rebuilds and by using smaller vehicles as the "second piece" of all engine companies to handle EMS responses, thus decreasing wear and tear on the major pieces.
Making preventive maintenance a lifestyle rather than an afterthought has gone a long way toward keeping all apparatus in service. I'm sure the challenges the current economic conditions bring will continue to place increasing pressure on fire department maintenance divisions across the country.
We need to redouble our efforts to work smart, plan ahead, and keep those rigs on the street in the safe, well-maintained condition our personnel deserve. If we are to call ourselves professionals, we can do no less.
ROUTLEY: The Montreal Fire Department has experienced a major increase in activity due to expansion of the first-responder medical response program over the past three years. Many companies have doubled their responses over this period, causing a proportionate impact on apparatus maintenance costs. We will probably shorten the life-cycle expectancy that is used to plan our replacement program.