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City council may need to look at fire trucks

Bryan City Council may have some expensive decisions to make in the next few years as several pieces of fire equipment are aging out.

Fire Chief Doug Pool provided council with his 2023 report Monday. He showed a list of all apparatus used by the fire department, with several of them listed as 30 years old or more.

“The problem with 30 years old is not that we have high mileage on them and we’ve worn the engines out necessarily, but we have a hard time getting parts because that becomes an issue,” Pool said.

Of top priority would likely be the replacement of the department’s ladder truck, which dates back to 1994, meaning it becomes 30 years old this year. The ladder on the truck cannot be used for climbing and rescues because Pool is waiting on a communications cable to be manufactured for it for repair.

Pool explained the cable allows a firefighter at the top of the ladder to move it around. He added the company sent the wrong part six months ago, and the department is still waiting for a new one. The repair alone is $7,000.

“That’s a real concern,” he said of not being able to get the ladder certified for rescue.

He said when that ladder truck was purchased, it cost $500,000. Current estimates for a new ladder truck are upwards of $2 million, and the lead time for new fire trucks is two to three years.

The department also has two pumper trucks that are more than 30 years old. The chief said replacement of a pumper is estimated at $800,000.

When asked why equipment replacement had not been a priority in the last budget cycle for the city, Pool said the focus was on building up the personnel of the department due to shortages.

“Last year our priority was putting people on the trucks, without people it doesn’t matter how new the trucks are,” Pool said. “But we’ve resolved a little bit of that.”

Pool also said the department saw a spike in its response calls in the later part of 2023 due to a change in how the department responds to calls that also involve Williams County EMS.

Dating back to 2014, the department usually handled 400 to 500 calls per year, but in 2023 that number jumped to 1,251. Pool said he expects that number to hit nearly 2,000 for 2024 with the new procedure in place for the entire year.

Of those 1,251 calls, 10%, or 51, were classified as fires. Of the fire calls, Pool said 23%, or 10 of them, were classified as intentional. Another 24 (55%) were unintentional, one is still under investigation and two could not have the cause determined after the investigation. Another seven were caused by failure of equipment or a heat source.

The department’s response time in Bryan is under four minutes, which Pool said he was pleased with. Response times to other areas the department also covers were a little longer but are also further away.

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