The Plain Dealer, Cleveland
SEVEN HILLS, Ohio — City council is expected to approve next month the lease-to-purchase contract of a new $591,268 fire engine for the Seven Hills Fire Department.
“One of the first things I noticed when I came on board was the age of our fleet,” Seven Hills Fire Chief Jamie Meklemburg said. “I have a reserve engine right now that’s 23 years old, with my front-line engine being 18 years old.
“NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) statutes basically say that once you hit 20 years old engines should be in a reserve status, which it is. But then it says when you hit the 23 to 25-year mark it should be taken out of service, which is what we’re looking to do.”
Added Seven Hill Mayor Anthony D. Biasiotta, “Leaders are faced with many responsibilities. None are more important than the safety of our residents. Our residents and our fireman deserve this vital piece of equipment. I fully support its acquisition.”
The fire chief noted last year alone the city spent $16,000 for preventative maintenance for the old engine.
“That’s not going to stop,” Meklemburg said. “They get to that age where things start going pretty much all of the time, so you’re putting tens of thousands of dollars into these trucks just to keep them on the road.”
Roughly six months ago, the fire chief appointed a task force to research the purchase of a new fire truck — which can vary in price between $550,000 to $700,000 — with the only caveat being it had to cost under $600,000.
As for the Sutphen Custom Pumper, Meklemburg said the vehicle’s bells and whistles are quite impressive.
“A quarter of a century later, the technology these trucks now have compared to the older trucks is almost unrecognizable,” Meklemburg said. “If we put these trucks side by side, you wouldn’t be able to recognize one from the other.”
The new fire truck addresses firefighter safety related to fire-related carcinogens. It adheres to a clean cab initiative, with outside storage on the vehicle for the firefighters’ turnout gear.
“Cancer prevention is very important to us in our line of work now,” Meklemburg said. “We’ve realized we wanted to eliminate coming back from fires and breathing in that smoke from your gear. So we’re going to take all of that out of the cab.”
Another amenity on the new fire engine that the fire chief said was designed specifically with Seven Hills in mind includes scene lighting.
“It’s a light tower that will come up when we’re in certain areas of Seven Hills that are very dark,” Meklemburg said. “We’ll be able to light it up like a football field.”
Once city council approves the expenditure, the fire chief will put in the order, which normally takes 12 to 14 months to build before delivery.
Regarding the older fire engine, the city will sell it online. Meklemburg said he’d be happy to get $15,000 for it.
“That truck was $320,000 when it was purchased, so we got 23 years out of it,” Meklemburg said. “The resale value isn’t very high now.”
One person who won’t be buying the 1997 fire truck is the fire chief.
“I would love it, but that’s not going to happen,” Meklemburg said. “I don’t think the wife would be too happy with me.”
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