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Fire truck quotes to be considered in January

Fire truck quotes to be considered in January Fire truck quotes to be considered in January

Firefighters in the Central Fire and EMS District are expected to deliver bids in January from at least three companies for the possible purchase of a new fire truck in 2021.

The district board voted last Thursday to have the firefighters’ truck committee reach out to three or more manufacturers and request quotes for trucks with both a commercial chassis and a more expensive custom-built chassis.

Board members originally planned on choosing between the custom or commercial option at last week’s meeting, but they eventually decided to let the vendors offer prices for both options.

Dan Schultz, a sales rep from Pierce Pumper, attended the Nov. 19 meeting, bringing with him a truck built on a custom- built chassis for board members to see up close and ask questions about. He told board members that a custom-built chassis generally run about $90,000 more than commercial versions, but they offer more space for firefighters and equipment in the cab.

Also, commercial chassis “don’t meet the crash standards that the custom chassis do for safety and survivability for firefighters,” Schultz said. However, all of the district’s fire trucks do need to meet DOT safety standards and are inspected annually to make sure they do.

In June, the board rejected a $582,000 proposal from firefighters for a new fire engine from Pierce Pumper, saying they wanted to see more than one option before agreeing to spend that much money.

At the October board meeting, a representative from Custom Fire Apparatus spoke to the board about the differences between custom and commercial chassis and provided specs developed by local firefighters for companies to base their bids on.

Now, the decision is coming before board members again as to whether or not they want to purchase a truck at this point and how much they’re willing to spend on it.

Larry Oehmichen said he wants to see at least three different proposals for the board to consider, just to make sure the district is getting the best possible price for taxpayers.

“I think it’s so important, when spending other people’s money, that we have three or four quotes to look at and be able to make a decision,” he said. “We maybe don’t have to buy the very cheapest one, but we might not have to buy the most expensive one.”

Oehmichen noted that the firefighters themselves say all of the district’s trucks are in “good to excellent condition.” He said he worries about the district blowing all of its savings on a new truck and then having to ask the municipalities for more money to pay for other vehicles or apparatus that may be needed.

“We’re not under the gun to get something done,” he said. “There is no state or federal statute that says ‘That truck is too old and has to come out of service.’” Standards set by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) do recommend that the first-out engine is less than 20 years old, but that is not mandated by the state of Wisconsin. At this point, the district’s newest truck is a 2001 Pierce with about 22,000 miles and 2,040 hours on the engine.

“But, I do realize, especially in an area the size of our district, that we should have something new,” Oehmichen added.

Board member Frankie Soto, representing Abbotsford, asked district fire chief Joe Mueller if he thinks the board is listening to firefighters.

“I think the board listened, but they’re the ones with the checkbook, and I totally get it,” Mueller said. “I totally understand it: you’ve got to watch out for taxpayers’ money. That’s what I’m trying to do too, and to get a truck that I think is going to serve the community for the next 20 years.”

Board member Dennis Engel said the firefighters lost some “credibility” with him after they presented a single proposal in June and are now saying a truck that costs substantially less is OK.

“We were told it was the absolute bare minimum the firemen wanted,” he said.

Mueller said the firefighters tried to get everything they wanted with their initial proposal, but they are also willing to eliminate features like independent front-end suspension in order to bring the price down.

“We cut stuff that we can live without, but they were safety features,” he said.

While speaking to board members in front of Pierce’s demo truck, Schultz said fire departments have more options than ever to choose from when selecting new fire engines.

“I can add a thousand dollars in options like that in fire trucks these days.”

When it comes to chassis design, he said the firefighting industry — not manufacturers — is pushing toward custom cabs as the preferred option. One reason, besides added safety, is that more spacious cabs can fit six firefighters or more, which is needed when responding to mutual aid calls.

Schultz also told board members that Pierce’s fire trucks are built to last well beyond 20 years.

“We expect that you’re going to run them for 35 years,” he said.

Other business

_ Mueller told the board that a newly purchased cot lift for the ambulance in Colby has already proven to be useful, as EMTs recently had to transport a 300-pound patient.

_ The EMTs responded to 97 ambulance calls between Oct. 14 and Nov. 19, and firefighters responded to six calls, either small fires or car accidents.

_ The board approved $51,530 in monthly department bills.

_ Abbotsford battalion chief John Austin told the board about a firefighter, Vince Bennett, who was severely injured in a car accident in Milwaukee and will need multiple surgeries. He said Abbotsford firefighters have already decided to make a donation to his wife and child and wanted to know if the district would also donate.

Oehmichen said the district does not have a policy for making such donations, and he was wary about setting a precedent. He said he preferred to have individuals make donations instead.

_ Mueller said the number of EMTs responding to calls is down quite a bit because so many people are out due to quarantines and COVID concerns. He said the district’s EMTs have also been covering ambulance calls for Owen and Spencer because of similar issues.

Because EMTs have to take so many precautions, such as wearing N-95 masks and face shields, Mueller does not believe any of the district’s responders have contracted COVID on a call. Three EMTs who have tested positive likely got it elsewhere, he said.