At 23 years old, Grosse Pointe Farms’ Engine 3, a fire pumper truck, is in need of replacement, with many internal controls no longer working properly and replacement parts becoming tougher to acquire.

At 23 years old, Grosse Pointe Farms’ Engine 3, a fire pumper truck, is in need of replacement, with many internal controls no longer working properly and replacement parts becoming tougher to acquire.

Photo provided by Andrew Rogers

New Farms fire pumper to offer latest technology, time-saving upgrades

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 7, 2020


GROSSE POINTE FARMS — At 23 years old, Grosse Pointe Farms’ Engine 3, a fire pumper truck, still looks good on the outside, but public safety officials say interior controls are another matter.

So the Farms Public Safety Department is looking forward to replacing the vehicle with a new one that they say will be safer for officers as well as residents.

During a virtual meeting by Zoom April 13, the Grosse Pointe Farms City Council voted unanimously in favor of the pumper purchase. At $648,327, the Rosenbauer FX Pumper is a major expenditure but one that public safety officials say is long overdue. The city anticipates getting about $10,000 by trading in its old pumper truck.

Engine 3 “looks fantastic,” said Farms Lt. Andrew Rogers, but “internally, it’s breaking down on us. We’re constantly repairing it. I don’t want to roll up on a house (fire) and it decides not to work.”

The new truck is “definitely due,” continued Rogers, who’s also the special operations lieutenant and officer in charge of the Fire Division. The National Fire Protection Agency recommends that a fire apparatus at 15 years old, even if it’s well maintained, should be used as a reserve vehicle only, and vehicles 20-25 years of age — even if they are within current standards, which Engine 3 isn’t — should be retired.

Among a multitude of problems cited with the old truck: The fuel gauge doesn’t work, the air conditioner doesn’t work, the heater hardly works at all, new self-contained breathing apparatuses don’t fit in the allocated cabinet, the air horn is difficult to pull, the water tank leaks and the engine hesitates when accelerating. In addition, officials say replacement parts are difficult to find quickly.

Rogers was one of a group of Farms public safety officers and fire specialists who spent about a year analyzing the department’s fire pumper needs both now and in the future, and then solicited bids from fire vehicle manufacturers with those specifications in mind. With something like this, “You definitely want a committee” to offer their input and insights, Rogers said.

Besides being in compliance with modern regulations, the new truck will have a host of improvements. Rogers said these include a fill station on the truck that can fill air bottles at the scene; a separate, built-in foam tank to battle oil and certain house fires; and a remote-controlled light tower that “turns the darkness into daylight” so firefighters can clearly see a fire scene at night.

“There’s nothing worse than fighting a fire at night and not being able to follow a smoke trail,” Rogers said.

Although the Farms can, and likely will, still use a joint air bottle filling station in Grosse Pointe Woods — which is also where Rogers said they’ll need to recharge the filling station on the new truck — being able to refill air bottles on the scene is significant for several reasons.

“In a (large) fire, you’ll have 20 bottles to fill up,” Rogers said.

He said being able to refill bottles at the station as well as on the road means Farms officers will save time by not always having to travel to the Woods and waiting for the bottle refilling to be complete.

“We have a lot of specialized equipment on it,” Rogers said. “It’ll be the best pumper in the Pointes.”

The Farms is going to a four-person cab instead of one that seats six to eight because, with public safety, Rogers said, most of the responding officers arrive on a fire scene in their patrol vehicles rather than on the fire truck, so those extra seats were wasted space. Because of the smaller cab, he said they’ll have more cabinets on the new truck for tools and electronics.

The new truck will feature a backup camera and recharging station for tools, Rogers said.

“The technology is amazing,” Rogers said. “This is a much safer, more efficient truck. … It’s built for the future, so you can add onto it.”

One of the many reasons Rogers said they selected a Rosenbauer model was the availability of replacement parts. Rogers said they’re not proprietary, so most of the parts can be acquired at local automotive parts stores. In addition, he said they use EZ Plus — a Rosenbauer dealer in Milan — to service their ladder truck, and “they’ve been phenomenal,” usually coming out within an hour or two to make any needed repairs that can’t be done by Farms personnel.

This is something for which the Farms has been saving for years.

“In the early 2000s, the Farms’ Budget and Audit committee had each department create a five-year capital budget,” Mayor Louis Theros said via email. “From that budget, we noticed that new fire trucks cost about $1,000,000 each. Thus, we started setting aside money each year so when we needed a new truck, it would not mean taking a huge part of one year’s general fund budget to pay for it. The new truck we ordered last month will bring a needed upgrade to our department and is fully paid for by the funds we have been setting aside for almost 15 years. We will continue this program as we look to a new ladder truck in the coming years.”

City Manager Shane Reeside said the pumper truck was the only major equipment purchase in the 2020-21 budget, because COVID-19 has produced so many uncertainties.

“Other capital projects, we are delaying until we have a better understanding of where things are going,” Reeside said.

One of the reasons the council needed to vote on the pumper purchase before the start of the 2020-21 fiscal year on July 1 was because of the amount of time it takes to get the vehicle. Rogers explained that it takes about a year from ordering to get the vehicle, because it will be completely customized to Farms specifications. The pumper isn’t extravagant, but he said it should serve the city well now and in the years to come.

“It’s a smart, solid investment, and it will serve the community for at least the next 20 years,” Rogers said.

He said the new truck, which is being manufactured in South Dakota, is expected to arrive in the Farms in May 2021. It’ll take about two weeks for officers to train on it and transition some old equipment to it before it’s ready to take on the road, Rogers said.