SFD apparatus fire raises reliability concerns

SPOKANE, Wash. - Ladder 11 fire vo

While responding to a fire on the South Hill Saturday firefighters experienced a fire of their own when Ladder 11 started smoking, bringing to light the aging equipment the Spokane Fire Department has to use.

Ladder 11 was extended out to the first floor of Touchmark Retirement Home this Saturday when an electrical fire broke out on the engine. The fire started behind this pump panel on the truck and then traveled all the way through the cables into the cab killing the electrical system. It's now in the shop undergoing repairs.

Ladder 11 is more than two decades old and will be swapped out with another engine during the fix.

"Based on the resources that we have in the system we are pretty confident we can adapt what we have remaining and still provide a good service to the community," said Schaeffer.

The city purchased four new apparatus in 2009 and deployed them at the busiest stations, "but overall the mean age is between 15 and 25 years old," Schaeffer said.

The aging fleet raises questions about reliability.

"Some of our hose, our nozzles are older than the firefighters using them," said Schaeffer.

Typically the fire department would replace equipment every 10 years with a bond.

Since the last bond didn't pass in 2009 the City of Spokane will have to replace the most critical equipment as needed.

"If we were going to take the one percent that is the typical increase in property taxes that we need to allocate it toward the top priority of our citizens and that's public safety," said Mayor David Condon.

That means pushing equipment as far as it'll go.

"It's a dire situation as obviously you can see," said Schaeffer.

To help cut down on use of larger equipment, like Ladder 11, the city also implemented the use of ARUs, or alternative response vehicles, SUVs that typically respond to smaller medical calls, which will help extend the life of the larger more expensive units.