Beacon Hose Company eyes new fire engine

Beacon Falls firefighter and emergency medical technician Kurt Novak stands next to Beacon Hose Company No. 1’s fire engine Monday outside of the fire house. Novak was hired at the same the department bought the engine, nearly 25 years ago. The department is seeking money from the town to buy a new fire engine. –LUKE MARSHALL

Beacon Falls firefighter and emergency medical technician Kurt Novak stands next to Beacon Hose Company No. 1’s fire engine Monday outside of the fire house. Novak was hired at the same the department bought the engine, nearly 25 years ago. The department is seeking money from the town to buy a new fire engine. –LUKE MARSHALL


BEACON FALLS — As the town continues to deliberate on the 2013-14 budget one of the largest requests on the table is a new fire engine for Beacon Hose Company No. 1.

Fire Chief Michael Pratt said the current fire engine may soon have to be retired.

The engine will come up on its 25th year in service in 2014, Pratt said. According to regulations, a vehicle that has been in service for that long can no longer be considered a front line piece of equipment.

This means the engine is not be allowed to be the first vehicle that responds to a fire, but can be a back-up vehicle.
The current engine also has an open cab, which means the two seats facing the back are open. This type of cab is no longer allowed under current safety standards, Pratt said.

In addition to those considerations, the engine has also begun to show its age.

“The plumbing inside the vehicle is deteriorating rapidly,” Pratt said.

Another problem the fire department has run into is that Boardman, the company who makes the truck, has been out of business for about 10 years.

“Getting parts is a lot harder than for other vehicles,” Pratt said.

Pratt added the engine has begun to have electrical issues and will also need new tires in the near future. He is worried that the truck will soon cost the town more to repair than it is worth.

Due to all of those concerns, Pratt felt that something needed to be done so the department could continue to serve the town.

“That’s why we proposed to the town to replace that engine,” Pratt said.

The department originally proposed completely refurbishing the Boardman engine for a cost of $585,000.

The problem with this is that the department still wouldn’t have a ladder truck, which it has been asking the town to purchase for approximately 10 years, Pratt said.

During the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance’s joint meeting in March, Pratt proposed buying a quintuple combination pumper, or quint, rather than refurbishing the engine.

The quint is a 500-gallon pumper and has a 75-foot ladder built in. Currently the department carries a 24-foot ladder on the Boardman.

Pratt said the 24-foot ladder is not always high enough to reach some third floors on houses.

“You get the best of both worlds,” said Pratt about the quint. “You get the ladder truck and end up with an engine.”

Pratt feels the quint, which comes with an approximate $700,000 price tag, would be a wise investment for the town.

“We try to run our budget as lean as possible and be fiscally responsible,” Pratt said. “This is definitely something that’s worth it. There’s no price you can put on someone’s life.”

The department is looking at buying a demo model rather than one ordered to certain specifications as a way to save money on the truck, Pratt said.

In addition to having a pumper and ladder, the quint would also have a fully enclosed cab that seats six people, rather than the four people the current engine can seat.

Pratt said aside from addressing safety concerns, the quint would also have an impact the town’s insurance service office rating. This rating ultimately affects how much citizens pay for their insurance premiums. Removing the current engine from the front line and not replacing it could have a negative effect, he said.

“I don’t know what our rating is, but if we don’t replace it, it will go down and people’s insurance goes up,” Pratt said.

Firefighter and emergency medical technician Kurt Novak, who was hired at the same time the truck was purchased, said the department has taken great care of the engine over the years.

“People mistake it being shiny with it being new. What that shows is that we take very good care of the equipment the town gives us,” Novak said.

In March members of the joint boards felt pursuing the purchase of a new truck was a wise investment.

“The Board of Finance said that this is the first time the fire department has ever proposed something that is the most reasonable thing they can think of,” Pratt said.

During the meeting both First Selectman Gerard Smith and Board of Finance member Jack Levine felt the new quint truck was a good idea and that the town should continue to look into the option.

Pratt said it would take the department approximately six months to bid out and receive the new truck.

Along with a new fire engine, the department is also seeking funds to repair the roof at the fire house.

The roof, which is approximately 15 years old, was constructed out of a wooden weave board, Pratt explained. The way to nail it down was with a nail that was shaped like a fishhook. Unfortunately, the nails have come loose and are puncturing the shingles, which is causing water to leak into the fire house, he said.

Pratt said his main concern is mold, which could become a serious problem with how much the roof has been leaking.

The cost to fix the roof is approximately $300,000.

Board of Finance Chairman Jim Huk said in an email the town is still considering the fire truck and the roof but has not reached an agreement on how to pay for them.

The items could be included in the 2013-14 budget or in a bond package. The roof and truck, along with other items, will be discussed by the Board of Finance during its next budget workshop on April 23.

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