New Ipswich fire chief says new truck is priority

  • The fire department is requesting to use $415,000 in reserve funds to replace Engine 3, built in 1987. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

When a fire call comes in, Fire Chief Meredith Lund has to ask the question: Is it worth sending out the department’s engine number 3?

When it comes to life-safety, it’s not an ideal question to be asking, considering that a town the size of New Ipswich should have two reliable, working pumpers. But as Engine 3 is more than 30 years old, it has what are now considered to be critical safety issues, and can only provide transportation for a limited number of firefighters, said Lund.

“We’re teetering on the brink of not having it run,” said Lund, who said that currently, the pumper is designated as back-up. 

This year, the fire department is requesting to withdraw $415,000 from the capital reserve account to replace the truck with a more modern version. The fire department also requested to replace the truck last year, using a combination of reserve funds and tax dollars, but voters turned down the request.

“We have the money, we just need the approval to spend it,” said Lund.

Because a custom truck can take up to a year to build, if voters don’t approve expending the funds this year, it will be a two-year minimum before the truck can be replaced, said Lund, and it is already proving difficult to get out the door, with a mechanical malfunction that drains the battery even when the truck is hooked up to an electrical charger. The department has found a work-around for that problem, said Lund, but it’s not ideal to have equipment that isn’t instantly reliable. 

“I ask people, how many people rely on a 30-year-old vehicle to get to work? Not many do,” said Lund.

And because the vehicle was built in the late 1980s, updates to safety standards have left it increasingly non-compliant, said Lund. For example, Engine 3 has seats for up to five firefighters. But two of those seats are located outside of the cab, tucked in open cubbies near the center of the truck, next to the engine. Not only does firefighters riding in the open, secured only with a lap belt, present an obvious safety hazard, the engine noise can damage hearing, said Lund, and the department has discontinued the use of those seats. But that leaves a driver and a bench-style seat that only has one seat-belt.

It also lacks basic safety systems like air bags and anti-lock breaks, due to its age. 

“We have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of rolling it, when it can only transport two firefighters,” said Lund, who added that a truck that could transport five or six firefighters, without the mechanical issues, age or safety concerns, would likely be rolling out for any first alarm scenario where they  could staff it.

The fire department will be holding information sessions on the truck and the proposed replacement at the fire station on Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. and March 10 from 8-11 a.m.