ST. GEORGE — A new fire engine was delivered to the Washington City Fire Department last month. The new apparatus, dubbed “Engine 62,” is the result of an emergency purchase approved by the Washington City Council earlier this year.
Washington City Fire Chief Matt Evans approached the City Council in February with a request for $620,000 for the emergency purchase due to most of the fire department’s engines being stuck in the shop for repair.
“Mechanically, they just weren’t holding up,” Evans told St. George News earlier this month while at the Washington City Fire station on Buena Vista Boulevard. Behind him was the new Engine 62 that was being outfitted with needed equipment before being sent to its new home at Station 62 on Washington Dam Road.
Having the new engine helps update the city’s fleet which some engines are known to have increasingly questionable reliability.
“It’s critical,” Evans said, adding the new engines help to ensure the continued safety and preparation of the city and surrounding area as far as being able to respond to accidents and fires is concerned. “It’s a big deal.”
As previously reported by St. George News, the Washington City Fire Department employed four fire engines prior to the emergency purchase. With the exception of a 2017 Pierce fire engine, the Fire Departments three other engines had recurring issues that took them out of service for extended periods.
The other three engines included a 2003 American LaFrance, a 1997 Freightliner and a 1995 Becker. Of these engines, the Becker was the most problematic, followed by the Freightliner. The American LaFrance is better shape compared to the other two, but has its own issues with parts availability due to the company that built it having gone out of business.
The Becker was deemed “unrepairable” due to electrical issues and retired from service. Used in its place for a little while was the 1997 Freightliner that the Fire Department used as a reserve engine. Unfortunately, mechanics warned this older engine would not be reliable if it saw consistent use – and it was not.
The Freightliner’s water pump gave out in the middle of a fire, Evans said. Fortunately, a fire engine from St. George was nearby was able to respond and take the malfunctioning Freightliner’s place.
Overall, there was a period of about three months in that the majority, if not all of the city’s fire engines were in the shop for regular maintenance or repairs, Evans said.
The average operational lifespan of a fire engine is around 15-20 years. The Washington City Fire Department had a plan to replace one of its engines every four to five years before the mounting issues with its existing fleet threw a wrench in that schedule.
“That’s when we approached the council and asked to purchase two engines in the same year,” he said.
Washington City already had a ladder truck on order that would add to its firefighting fleet, yet it won’t be delivered to the city until 2022. This is because the bulk of fire engine purchases are custom jobs. Each is built to fit the needs of the community where it will serve.
This usually results in a 14-16 month waiting period once the new fire apparatus is ordered, Evans said.
However, the companies that build the custom fire engines also tend to roll out a small number of stock-built units for times when need is urgent like it was in Washington City.
The City Council approved the emergency purchase of a new Pierce fire engine for $620,000 during a Feb. 24 council meeting. This would prove to be the price for the engine alone, however.
Outfitting a new fire engine with equipment like hoses, ladders and various pierces of fire and medical gear and technology can easily add another $100,000-plus to the amount put toward a new engine.
“There’s a lot equipment that’s in there,” Evans said. “It does some phenomenal things and we know it will absolutely save lives, and you really can’t match that a dollar, but absolutely, it’s expensive.”
The ladder truck the city has on order is estimated to run $1.2 million.
The 1995 Becker has since been auctioned off by Washington City, while the 1997 Freightliner returns to reserve status until the ladder truck arrives. It will be retired at that time with the 2003 American LaFrance assuming reserve status.
Evans said he was grateful for the City Council approving the emergency purchase, and also praised the support Washington City Fire had received from other fire agencies while its engine were out of commission.
“We’re really lucky in the fire service in that we have great neighbors with the agencies that surround us,” he said. “Everybody helps everybody… At the end of the day, though, we need to be able to take care of our own community.”
Having the new engine helps provide some peace of mind since there won’t be as much of a risk of it breaking down like the older engines, but it also helps the Washington City Fire Department aid their neighbors in kind, Evans said.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.