Augusta Firefighters on Mission to Revive Ladder Truck

Aug. 26--The Augusta Fire Department is hoping to resurrect one of its aerial ladder trucks within a year, and all that's needed is an Augusta Commission stamp of approval.

A proposal naming Pennsylvania-based Kovatch Mobile Equipment Corporation as the vender to refurbish the truck went before the Public Safety committee Monday. Without a quorum, no action was taken and the proposal will be moved to the Sept. 2 commission meeting agenda. The department negotiated a final price of $278,105 for the refurbishment.

The truck, purchased in the early 1990s, has sat dormant at Station No. 3 on Reynolds Street since it developed mechanical problems, was declared unfit for duty and decommissioned.

It's built to be steered by two firefighters -- one in the front of the vehicle and one in the rear -- allowing fire crews to easily navigate the narrow streets of downtown Augusta. Chief Chris James said the truck had developed a rear axle bounce, which made it unsafe.

KME's proposal offers an option to retrofit the truck's new axle with a new air spring suspension at no extra cost.

James told The Augusta Chronicle in November that a new apparatus would run the department more than $1 million. The department could auction off the truck to recover some of the costs, but James said that would fetch less money than what the unit is worth.

Also in November, the commission approved James' request to use more than $201,390 from a department revenue account to help pay for new uniforms and for the refurbishment of the truck. About $168,000 will go toward rejuvenating the aging apparatus.

According to a proposal submitted to the city by KME, the refurbishment is expected to take about 240 days. The rebuild will be done in accordance to current National Fire Protection Association standards.

The unit's engine will be removed and a remanufactured Detroit Diesel engine will take its place. The engine will come with a two-year warranty. The Allison transmission will be removed and replaced, as will the front axle.

The cab of the truck will be gutted and returned to its former glory, and the entire truck will receive a fresh coat of paint. The last step outlined in the proposal is to update lighting on the truck with LED lights.

James has expressed interest in moving a second aerial ladder truck to south Augusta. Within the past year, he's added one to Station No. 19 on Brown Road, which was the first aerial ladder truck south of Tobacco Road.

Once the refurbished truck is fit for duty, the department can activate it for use downtown and move a second truck to south Augusta.

Copyright 2014 - The Augusta Chronicle, Ga.

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