Six engines will cost nearly $3 million

Bend plans fire engine purchase

By Hillary Borrud / The Bulletin

The city of Bend plans to spend nearly $3 million this year to purchase six new fire engines built in Lyons , South Dakota.

Bend officials expect the new Rosenbauer vehicles will arrive in early 2015. They will replace 19-year-old engines that were also made in the United States.

A major issue is the older trucks are often in the shop for repairs, which reduces the number of available vehicles to respond to emergencies, Bend Fire Department Deputy Chief Doug Koellermeier said in late June. The city fire department and Deschutes County Rural Fire Protection District No. 2, which operate together, own a combined total of six engines, although the department also has water tenders, ladder trucks and other vehicles.

“The mechanical issues and downtime are creeping up on us, and we’re now at a point where we need to replace this fleet with more current technology and more reliable mechanical pieces of equipment,” Koellermeier said.

The purchase of the fire engines is unrelated to the five-year fire services levies that rural and city voters approved in May, to hire and equip additional firefighters and medical personnel.

Koellermeier said fire departments in the United States typically replace their first-line engines — the vehicles they send first to an incident, as opposed to reserve vehicles — every 10 to 15 years. The city postponed the purchase of new engines for several years during the economic downturn to avoid cuts to other items in the fire department budget, Koellermeier said. On June 18, the City Council voted to authorize the purchase of the six water pumper trucks at a total cost of $2.9 million, which was approximately $102,000 under budget, according to a city report.

Fire Chief Larry Langston said last week that the new vehicles will be safer for firefighters to use and offer greater water-pumping capacity.

“This will bring the latest technology for the firefighters to use on the fire suppression responses,” Langston said. “It will also be a real morale booster because we’ve had these current engines for 19 years.”

Each of the old engines has approximately 90,000 miles, but Koellermeier said much of the wear on the vehicles is unrelated to driving.

“There’s considerable draw, electrical power draw, on these, so we burn through batteries and alternators on a regular basis,” Koellermeier said. “And it’s because it’s older electrical technology on these.”

The new engines will have light-emitting diode, or LED, lighting. LED technology lasts longer and can be more efficient than incandescent lights.

Some parts that wore out on the old trucks were covered by lifetime warranties, but the companies that produced them were no longer in business by the time the fire department needed replacements.

Examples include a cracked water tank on one truck and broken systems on multiple trucks that would normally create fire extinguishing foam. “We can no longer get those parts anymore,” Koellermeier said.

Instead, the fire department took foam systems out of its water tender trucks and used them to replace the broken systems in the engines. “We could put all new foam systems on (the engines), but there would be a considerable cost to that.”

Koellermeier said the new engines will benefit the community in several ways.

“These will have a little bigger pump capacity, to be able to protect our commercial industry,” Koellermeier said. The Rosenbauer engines pump 1,500 gallons of water per minute, whereas the existing engines pump 1,250 gallons per minute. The new vehicles have a tighter turning radius to help navigate city streets and able to brake more quickly. The field of vision from the truck cabs is better, as are the seat belts and airbags, Koellermeier said.

And finally, the new engines are supposed to run more quietly. Firefighters currently have to wear hearing protection while driving and pumping water from the noisy old vehicles. “Hearing protection for our folks is going to be so much better,” Koellermeier said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com