Fire apparatus an indispensable part of serving community

Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 12:45 PM
Fire stations – and trucks – have come a long way since this picture was taken.
JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

10/22/2015- Durango- Durango Fire Protection District Chief Hal Doughty.

This month, we’d like to share some information with you about our fire trucks and other vehicles in the Durango Fire & Rescue fleet.

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote: “I can think of no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire truck.” It’s true that when you experience those shiny, bright-colored trucks, with lights flashing and sirens wailing, there is an impulse of attention, excitement and adrenaline. Since 1881, there have been fire trucks in Durango, which have progressed from horse-drawn carts that carried hand-operated pumps to move water, to having mechanized pumps, then mechanized trucks, and finally, the modern fire engines and ladder trucks we are accustomed to today.

When you think of all the costs associated with running a fire and EMS organization, one of the things you have to consider is the cost of having the appropriate apparatus in a ready state to respond to the wide variety of calls we respond to (4,600 in 2015). Fire apparatus cost money ... a lot of money – nearly $500,000 for a fire engine and around $1 million for a ladder truck. For that reason, we scrutinize very heavily the timing and necessity of replacing this vital equipment.

One of the assumptions made is that because the trucks are so shiny and bright, we must have all new trucks – or that we buy new ones all the time. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We take exceptionally good care of the fire apparatus – including washing them daily and maintaining them, in house, by our Fleet Division. Most of the responses the fire apparatus go on are fairly short. The closest apparatus responds to the call from their district’s station – Durango Fire has 16 stations within our district. This allows us to run them very few miles compared to other big trucks you see on the road.

In the Durango Fire & Rescue fleet, we have 18 fire engines. The newest three were purchased in 2010. The oldest was built in 1982, 34 years ago. We expect fire engines to last about 20 years, although national best practices would have us remove them from front line service at the 15-year mark. We also have two ladder trucks in the fleet. Both of these trucks were purchased in 1997: one for the city of Durango Fire Department and one for the Animas Volunteer Fire Department. At our consolidation in 2002, both remained in service as Durango Fire Protection District units.

In total, 11 of our 18 fire engines, both of our ladder trucks and two of our nine tanker trucks will be 20 years or older at the start of 2017. This represents a substantial portion of our fleet, and it is concerning as we plan for our future capital replacement needs.

Durango Fire & Rescue takes a very conservative approach to our capital replacement projects. Beyond age, we consider mileage, operating cost per mile, maintenance and repair costs and the time out of service when deciding about apparatus replacements. This allows us to have confidence in our aging fleet, while still adequately planning for the future of fire and EMS service provision to our community.

Similar to the quote from Mr. Vonnegut, we are hopeful that the sight of a Durango Fire & Rescue fire truck stirs in you a sense of nostalgia and pride. We hope that our apparatus bring you a sense of safety and security – they are one of the most visible symbols of our continuing mission to be there to assist you in your time of need.

Thank you for your support.

Hal Doughty is fire chief for Durango Fire Protection District.