The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

July 15, 2013

Fire chief: Eldest fire truck a burden on department

OTTUMWA — At this point, an aging, out-of-date firetruck is just taking up space at the fire department's central station, says Ottumwa's fire chief.

A public hearing at tonight's City Council meeting will open up discussion of the possible $1 million purchase of a new aerial fire apparatus for the Ottumwa Fire Department.

The 1977 American LaFrance snorkel is suffering from several problems, said Fire Chief Tony Miller.

He wants to replace the truck with a 100- or 101-foot platform aerial fire apparatus. That far outstretches the eldest truck's capabilities, which can only reach 85 feet.

"It cannot reach the top floor of Westgate [Towers], and we have a hard time getting it angled around where we need it to be at the high school," he said.

It's also plagued by a variety of maintenance issues, the cost of which simply isn't worth it, he said.

"We don't spend a lot of money on its maintenance now because ... why throw that money away?" he said.

The truck does not have a water tank or a water pump, which means anytime it was called out to a fire, one of the department's six other trucks would have to accompany it in order to pump water to the scene. The department currently has the 1977 American LaFrance Snorkel, a 1996 and a 2005 Pierce, a 1990 Mack Pumper, a 2003 American LaFrance and two 2010 rescue trucks.

The truck is also leaking oil and all of its hydraulic hoses need to be replaced, as they're cracking and leaking fluid, some of which can be seen coating the truck's windshield. And it has an open-air cab, which presents a safety risk to the firefighters. Today, all firetrucks are required to have a closed cab.

"I don't know of another fire department in the state of Iowa that has a firetruck this old," Miller said.

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