New aerial engine checks off all the boxes

The Citizen | January 17, 2019

HUGO — Residents who live in a three- or four-level home can sleep a little more soundly at night knowing that firefighters will be able to reach them.

The Hugo City Council approved the purchase of an aerial engine, not to exceed $1.1 million in price, at its Dec. 17 meeting.

“We have needed an aerial truck for quite some time. That was identified back in the mid-2000s,” Hugo Fire Department (HFD) Chief Kevin Colvard explained. “At the time we were seeking to get the aerial truck we were unable to because of finances; it was a bad economy.”

Mayor Tom Weidt added, “It is a huge purchase for the city of Hugo and a very expensive purchase, so we have kind of been resistant to it because of the amount of money and, frankly, during the recession we were not in a place to do something like this. We are now, and we think it is the right time. We are replacing another truck that we were going to have to replace anyway that would have been about $700,000.”

HFD’s 1991 engine was scheduled to be replaced in 2021. A committee was formed to determine what requirements and specs would be needed for the new apparatus. One of the first trucks the department took a look at was a demonstration truck from Custom Fire, which was manufactured by Sutphen.

“We were supposed to replace this two years from now, but with price increases and the things that would happen over the next two years of putting all the bells and whistles on it, I thought this truck meets 99 percent of what we have laid out for our requirements and we can probably get it cheaper today then we could in two years,” Weidt said.

Weidt made a call, and a deal was made for the demonstration engine that has never seen a fire and has approximately 6,000 miles on it. A trade-in for the city’s 1991 engine was also worked out to help bring the cost down. Colvard said if the city were to purchase this aerial engine new in 2021, it would likely cost the city around $1.3 million. In Weidt’s research, he found the last seven models of the engine sold for $1.2 to $1.35 million.

One of the biggest reasons Hugo needs an aerial truck, Colvard said, is due to the height/size of the buildings including single-family residences, multilevel/multidwelling senior living facilities such as Keystone Place at LaValle Fields, and the rapidly expanding industrial park.

“Looking ahead to the future, I can only believe that we are going to see more occupancies that resemble that. I think we are going to find more multilevel, multifamily buildings as time goes on, much like many other suburbs,” Colvard said. “Looking back at the number of structure fire calls where we have had to call mutual aid from other surrounding departments, we rely on them heavily because they do have an aerial truck. That becomes a concern when we have to wait extra time for them to get there because they are coming from farther away.”

Weidt added, “In the past when we have had some large house fires where we got a ladder truck there with mutual aid, but we have already been there an hour fighting the fire — and then you have got to pull everything apart, move it around and put the ladder truck in the right place to use it, it kind of delays the response.”

The multipurpose truck features a 100-foot aerial platform that can hold up to four firefighters. It can also act as an engine or pumper, as it has a power-takeoff (PTO) driven pump, which allows the engine to respond to car fires, house fires and initial attacks.

The new aerial engine has both a tandem axle for great weight distribution and a mid-mount (shorter) aerial so the vehicle will not tip over.

“This truck will do everything that our engine we are replacing did, but in addition, it also has the 100-foot platform for added capabilities,” Colvard explained.

HFD is expected to have the aerial engine delivered sometime in February. Before the apparatus can be added to the fleet, the department will undergo extensive training on the new apparatus until the firefighters feel comfortable with it.

“We are excited for the fire department to improve their ability to serve the citizens and we look forward to adding it to the toolbox,” Weidt said.


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