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Fire department needs go beyond just one truck

Members of the Farmington Fire Department believe the need for new vehicles doesn't stop with one fire engine.

Of the dozen vehicles in the fire department's garages, six were purchased prior to 2000. The oldest vehicle in the department is a 1986 rescue truck.

But it's not just big fire engines and rescue trucks that are aging out. Two of the department's three chief's vehicles are nearing the end, and all three of the department's small brush trucks date back to purchases in the 1990s.

Farmington fire marshal John Powers isn't sure how the department fell behind on the purchase of vehicles, but he hopes conversations with city council members will help get things back on track.

"We've never had a chance to come up with a plan to rotate some of these vehicles," Powers said. "Even though the older vehicles are in good physical condition, after so many years they get to be unreliable."

The main focus lately has been on replacing a 1986 rescue truck with a new fire engine that will also be equipped to handle rescue calls. That would give the department three engines -- including the 2001 model that's been in and out of the shop on repairs over the past three months, and a 1993 engine that is still fairly reliable. The lifespan for engines is about 20 years, which means the latter truck will be nearing the end of its cycle next year.

In addition to the 1986 rescue truck, the fire department has a 2005 heavy rescue truck that will last for several years.

Water tender trucks, too, are on 20 year cycles. The department bought one of those trucks in 2004, but the other dates back to 1989. The latter tender truck has an 1,800-gallon tank. Though it still works well, if the tank on that older truck became damaged or corroded, finding the parts necessary to fix or replace the tank could be close to impossible, not to mention costly, Powers said.

The fire department has brush trucks purchased in 1991, 1992 and 1997. Those should be on 10-year cycles. Powers calls the 1991 truck "obsolete" and said it is only used for backup.

"Those are lower on the list than the engine and the chief's vehicles," Powers said. "We need to get those done sooner than later."

Chief's trucks

The Farmington Fire Department has three vehicles established for use by the fire chief, fire marshal and assistant chiefs. Chief's vehicles are on eight- to 10 year cycles, and only one - the 2002 Ford Expedition used primarily by Powers and chief Tim Pietsch - is nearing the end of its cycle. Sort of.

One of the vehicles used by the department is a retired Farmington police car, a 2005 Crown Victoria that can transport firefighters but does not have a lot of room for the extra equipment found in the Expedition or the department's newest chief's vehicles, a 2008 Chevrolet 2500 HD. The Crown Victoria is the second retired police car assigned to the fire.

"It comes to a point where the hand-me-down from one emergency department to another might have had some merit, but you're just shifting the problem," Powers said.

There has been talk of one day getting a ladder truck for Farmington, but that's a long way down the road in Powers' opinion. He hopes the city council will work with firefighters to set up a replacement plan to address the already in place.

"We need to get council on a plan that's not only going to catch us up, but keep us up," Powers said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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