Archive for Monday, August 14, 2006

Fire chief prepares plan to replace aging trucks

August 14, 2006


Ah, fire trucks: The bright, shiny - and once again red - machines are what little boys' dreams are made of.

City leaders, though, may soon find out that they also can create nightmares for the people who have to pay for them.

Lawrence Fire Chief Mark Bradford is preparing a plan for how the city can replace its aging fleet of eight fire trucks. It's a report city commissioners and administrators will read eagerly because with fire trucks ranging in price from about $500,000 to $1 million, a large-scale replacement program will put heat on the city budget.

"It's definitely time for us to develop a plan for how to replace our firefighting apparatuses," Bradford said. "Making sure we have equipment that is in good condition is very important. These are not like an ordinary automobile. It's a piece of safety equipment that has to be in top-notch performance every day."

The big question the report - scheduled to be completed within the next month - will answer is how quickly the city must replace its fleet. Bradford said he doesn't yet have a feel for that, but there are signs that the fleet is suffering from wear and tear.

Before the study was even complete, Bradford successfully lobbied city commissioners to include the purchase of a quint fire truck in the 2007 budget. He had a pretty good argument for the $800,000 purchase.

"The tank on it was leaking out more water than we could put in," Bradford said of the truck, which is one of the main units for Fire Station No. 4 in western Lawrence. "We've done a temporary fix on it. We're keeping our fingers crossed that it remains intact until we replace it."

Whether other trucks in the city's firefighting fleet are set to have those type of problems is what Bradford is trying to determine. What he knows for sure is that the leaky, 14-year-old quint is not the department's oldest truck.

The oldest is a 19-year-old ladder truck that the department uses as a reserve, meaning it is called into service only when the main ladder truck is out of service or in cases where both ladder trucks are needed at once. It also would be the most expensive truck for the city to replace, with an estimated cost of $1 million.

With price tags like that, city commissioners are going to demand a lot of information before they make any new purchases.

"I know that I don't want age to be the critical determinant in whether we replace a unit or not," said City Commissioner David Schauner. "Condition has to be the main factor. You can have an old fire truck that is still perfectly fine for us to use."

Bradford said he's not going to rely solely on age either. He'll look at maintenance records, appearance, the number of operational hours a truck has accumulated and the safety record of each vehicle.

But Bradford did say that most major fire departments across the country seek to rotate trucks out of service after seven to 10 years, which is about the time that many warranties begin to expire. Except for one new truck that the city purchased when it opened its newest fire station this year, all of the city's firefighting fleet is at least six years or older.

Interim City Manager David Corliss said Bradford was one of several department heads who have been asked to take a close look at their vehicle needs. Corliss said vehicles shouldn't be a forgotten piece of the city's infrastructure equation.

"Citizens' lives and property are at stake with some of these vehicles," said Corliss. "We don't want this to grow into a silent crisis for the community. We don't want to have to sound the alarm on this."

Other city departments that have been directed to prepare reports on vehicle replacement plans include the public transportation department, public works, and parks and recreation.

"We want to make sure that we aren't ever hit by a whopping price tag to replace a lot of vehicles all at once," Corliss said. "We want a multi-year plan to replace those."


Terry Jacobsen 11 years, 9 months ago

Good for the firemen. Good for the citizens of Lawrence. I think you guys do a great job of protecting us and saving lives!

lunacydetector 11 years, 9 months ago

the military has been using B-52 bombers that were manufactured in the 1950's. one was recently retired in 2004. that plane was 50 years old. it's predicted the airforce is going to do a partial phase out of the B-52 program in the year 2045, after 93 years of service.

gee, you'd think an airplane would be weaker than a fire truck. on the leaky tank problem, couldn't someone get in there with a blow torch and fix the darn thing?

pity2bu 11 years, 9 months ago

They don't need no stinking new trucks, nor do they need new stations. They can't make it to your house in 4 minutes or less now. What a joke and I, along with others get to pay for this crap.

rayikeo 11 years, 9 months ago

800,000.00 = One roundabout 800,000.00 = One new fire truck that can not manuver around one roundabout. Choose one of the above options.

rayikeo 11 years, 9 months ago

How many miles is on this Truck that needs replacing? My guess is less than 10,000 Miles. Why not send it in for refurbishing at a cost of less than $50,000 (my guess of cost)? Old Fire trucks used in Lawrence don't get much use. Most Fire departments would jump at the chance to own it. What is the actual cost to put a new water tank in that truck? Has anyone bothered to check?

indythinker 11 years, 9 months ago


in the case of fire trucks, mileage is irrelevant. do you think they just use them to drive to a fire, hook a hose to a hydrant and spray water out of it??? of course not... a fire engine intakes water into the pump, water pressure is increased by pump velocity which is driven by a power-take-off (PTO) directly from the engine on the truck.

a "old" fire engine might only have 20 or 30 thousand miles but have thousands and thousands of HOURS on the engine and pump.

as well, as pumps wear, they lose the ability to maintain water velocity/pressure. and, rebuilding an old pump is expensive, time consuming and not always reliable. as another stated before, all fire pumps have to be certified annually. research the criteria for pump testing and you will see that it is not easy. i believe the qualifications are listed under NFPA Standard 1911. but, i could be incorrect about that specific item.

At some point, the cost of maintaining an apparatus to keep it in good condition far exceeds the cost of annual payments for new equipment that can be used for another 10+ years.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 9 months ago

$800,000.00= One roundabout.

Name one that cost that much.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 9 months ago

Well, why don't you just unhide those costs for us, Marion. And identify your sources of information while you're at it.

rayikeo 11 years, 9 months ago

Marion, while you are finding the costs, also show bozo the projected cost of the yet to be built turnaround at 19th and Louisiana. That one may be well over the $800,000 cost.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 9 months ago

There was some discussion of a roundabout at 19th and Louisiana, but it has been decided not to build one there. But because it was mentioned by someone as a possiblility, like the $70 million library, I'm sure on the JW forum it will continue to be portrayed as accomplished fact.

Devon Kissinger 11 years, 9 months ago

I know that even if the truck was refitted with new driveline, pump, tank, fittings, etc. You still have an old truck, the trade-in value keeps dropping and the maintenance costs keep rising. The dealers take trade-ins and it doesn't take long for a piece of equipment like that to be worthless. I know of a truck that is right at 20 years old and the dealers won't take it as a trade-in. It is rated as a 1000 gpm pumper that barely makes 750 gpm. The cost to refit that truck is nearly what a new one similar to it will cost, and more than a used newer unit will cost, that cost has been researched over and over. The price of a truck gets pretty steep without a trade-in. Debating the need for a new truck is gambling with lives (civilian and firefighters). That's just not something we should do.

Devon Kissinger 11 years, 9 months ago

Thanks Marion, I needed a good laugh today.

"I'll paint it red with orange flames, dual chrome stacks, fuzzy dice, dingle balls and twice pipes.


Chrome wheels.

Ooo-Gah horn.

Racoon tail on the antenna.

Blue dots.

CD player.

Bass reflex."

I somehow don't think this truck is the one you envision it to be.

indythinker 11 years, 9 months ago


Excellent assesment. Joe Taxpayer sometimes does not understand that FD's have to spend the money one way or another to repair or replace an apparatus.

Oh by the way pity2bu....It takes at least 3 minutes from a incoming call to dispatch to be toned out and responded to. If you expect a fire truck to be on your doorstep in four minutes then you'd better be sleeping in a tent next to a fire station.

kansasfire911 11 years, 9 months ago

The early posts crack me up about new stations. You have to realize the station is more than just a barn, it's our home away from home. Marion is right its not the milage its the hours put on the trucks. Ex: my department bought a brand new E-One ladder truck two years ago and it already has over 500 hours on it. Our 5 year old engine is going to be replaced in 2008. Yes trucks are expensive and yes tax payers are going to have to pay some of the bill, but what is the price for safety and good working equipmnet? There are federal grants available for departments to purchase equipmant and I'm sure that Lawrence will be looking into that.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 9 months ago

"(1) Basic construction cost: $324, 328.00

(3) Property acquistion: $27,000.00"

Soin reality it cost $351.328.00 plus design fees, or about half the $800,000 you originally asserted.

Why am I not surprised?

jayhawks71 11 years, 9 months ago

Marion, thanks for pointing out that level of bureaucracy (certification) that adds to the costs. So not only do citizens have to pay to buy a fire truck with their tax dollars, they get to pay for the certification bureaucracy and the additional cost for the truck to meet certification.

Why not privatize fire service? When your house catches on fire, you pay a fee, or perhaps it can be negotiated with your insurance company. Why should people who have had nothing catch on fire for 20 be forced to keep paying for "insurance" for people whose houses have burned down.

I am not meaning to be insensitive; I realize people don't typically, purposely burn their houses down, but why wouldn't a privatized system work? It certainly would cost less, then people could "opt in" if they wanted to ensure a higher level of service. There could be a subscription service and an a la carte service (which would cost more, but you would only pay for it when it was used, analogous to having a higher deductible on your car... you assume a bit more risk, but if you never get in an accident, you save in the long run.)

jayhawks71 11 years, 9 months ago

So the 200k for the water line is not really part of the cost, as you said, it was going to need replacing anyway. -200k

And wow, that architect is going to make nearly a million dollars on each one eh? Perhaps there could be a package deal. -900k

And then you included the calming devices down the road. Those aren't the roundabout. -30k

Not denying they are costly, but the figures are inflated to make a point.

There we go. 450k is more like it.

jayhawks71 11 years, 9 months ago

No Marion, you don't add in 206k. If you were going to let it ride for a few more years first, you would figure the cost across all of the years it had been in operation, so for ease, lets say 2008, so the line would be about 70 years old or about 3k a year. Therfore the cost that should be figured in is only about 9k, not 206k. In addition, the cost of putting in the water line in 3 years would be higher than putting it in now. So, really less than 9k is being "wasted."

Where does this magical 30 for "acquisitions"; bozo actually included that. He and I both took out the calming devices down the road. the 27k for property acquisitions was included by both bozo and me.

Inflated to make a point; I stand by my statement.

leavemealone 11 years, 9 months ago

My question is would they have but those calming devices in if they hadn't put the roundie in?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 9 months ago

"Now add it up, jerk."

I did add it up, and got nothing like what your "new" math came up with. Is that what makes me a jerk?

"Either way, you cannot argue with the over ONE MILLION dollar price tag for the propose roundie by the hihg school."

How can I argue about the price of something that has never been and apparently never will be built?

kansasfire911 11 years, 9 months ago

jayhawks71: The fire service was privatized by the insurance companies in the 1700's. The problem was if your house catches on fire and another fire service shows they could not put out the fire because you did not pay to that particular company. Another problem was if you didn't have insurance the fire brigades would fight in the streets to get the money from the home owner, and even then the "winning" fire brigade would haggle over the price to put out the fire. Which by that point the building would be burnt to the ground. I agree that propery owners need to be fined for fires. You get in an accident in your vehicle, you get fined. Why not fine people for the stupidity of having a fire?

Devon Kissinger 11 years, 9 months ago

I just wonder how much money the city has had to put into Quint 4. It caught fire in the station some time ago and has had to have another engine put in it recently.

lunacydetector 11 years, 9 months ago

actually bozo, there USED to be a link that had all of the costs - actually if memory serves me right - there were two links from the city that had the costs of the 19th & louisiana intersection roundabout costs. they also replaced the storm sewers (not mentioned in marion's post) and replaced the curbing (go figure). i found it about 3 - 4 years ago, but low and behold, the links are either dead or too buried to find.

since you are with the city of lawrence, perhaps you could re-find this information for us. would you be so nice to provide us with the valuable information - i'm sure it is easier for you to find than us.

surely you know that roundabouts cost about the same amount as a major intersection's cost for new traffic lights. I think the cost was between $800-$900,000 for the 19th & louisiana roundabout. i am almost positive of the price range because i saw the figures with my own two eyes.

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