Danville's reserve fire trucks out of commission

DANVILLE - Mechanical issues with two of the Danville Fire Department's fire trucks have taken both out of service, leaving the city without any backup to respond with if there were two fires at once.

Danville Public Safety Director Larry Thomason said although two working fires at once is rare, if it were to happen, the department would have to rely on help from fire departments in surrounding communities.

Thomason explained the predicament to aldermen during Tuesday night's public services meeting of the city council.

"We are in dire straits in regard to fire equipment," said Thomason, who has been working this year on proposals for new fire trucks, knowing the department was in need, but recent unexpected mechanical issues with two trucks in the last week has made it a more serious situation.

Thomason said the department had taken a 75-foot aerial ladder truck out of operation because of various mechanical issues and was using a reserve truck in its place as a frontline vehicle, meaning it's first to go out to a fire scene. But last week, the reserve truck, which is a pumper, developed an issue. He said it has heavy rust in the tank, which has now taken it out of commission. And the aerial truck it was replacing has additional mechanical issues.

"We have no reserve units at all," he said.

As a result, Thomason said, the department is in dire need of a new ladder truck and a new pumper truck, and the cost of each can range from $300,000 to $1 million. Thomason has researched various options for acquiring the equipment and has suggested a tax-exempt lease option. He said that route is becoming more common for acquiring fire equipment. Thomason gave aldermen a breakdown of costs under such a program, and he told them that it's now up to them and the mayor to determine the funding source.

Thomason's proposal calls for leasing both pieces of equipment at a total cost of slightly more than $1 million and securing a 15-year lease at an annual cost of about $97,000 a year. At the end of the lease, the city would own the equipment.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer told aldermen that city administration is looking at the city's capital funds to see what funding might be available. He said they also are researching bonding rates to see if bonds could be an option as well as lease options.

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