Patterson to buy new fire truck

By ROBERT R. JONES III

PATTERSON — In an attempt to maintain Patterson’s fire rating, Mayor Rodney Grogan and the City Council unanimously passed a measure Tuesday to begin the process to buy a pumper truck for the Patterson Volunteer Fire Department.

Currently, the city has a National Fire Protection Agency fire rating of 4, with 1 being the best possible rating and 10, the worst.

Fire Chief Sherel Martin said the new truck was necessary because its 1979 truck, Pumper 5, could no longer pass state and NFPA inspection due to a myriad of age-related problems.

The fire department has two newer trucks, a 2004 and a 2007 model, but Martin said the problem was that the department had to run two trucks to fire calls, which could present a problem for multiple calls or larger fires.

“If one of the two new trucks goes down, I do not have a backup,” he said. “If there is catastrophic mechanical failure with both of them, I do not have anything. Case and point is the recent fire at Crescent Acres (apartments). We did not have a third pumper to bring up pressure from the hydrant, so we had to call Bayou Vista Volunteer Fire Department to bring a truck to keep our pressure at a safe level.”

The chief said he hoped to take possession of the new truck, which will cost about $191,000, in December. The fire department will put up about $100,000 toward the cost of the vehicle.

The city is in good shape with its two newer pumpers as far as the fire rating, Martin said, but the oldest truck could no longer be repaired due to its age and the costs associated with rebuilding the vehicle from the ground up.

The department also has a 1980 pumper used as a backup, but this truck is having its pump repaired and is expected to re-enter service with the department as a backup vehicle.

“I am here to address our aging pumping fleet, but I want to go on record by first saying our station is at 100 percent with our current fleet that we have at this present time,” he said. “Unfortunately, through the years, we have accumulated two older pumpers that we have been nursing for the last several years to keep in compliance with the state and also the National Fire Protection Agency. The fire department took a closer look at the two older trucks after (they failed) inspection and I visited with Mayor Rodney Grogan and he instructed me to come before the council with my concerns.”

The 1979 pumper has failed certification tests the last two years, primarily due to pump issues and the pump engine overheating, Martin said.

The pump motor on Pumper 5 was rebuilt in 2006, but it still continues to overheat and stall and is hard to get started, he said.

“Our service attendants have not been able to attend this unit because they are working on the 1980 model at this time,” Martin said.

“The fire department has decided in 2012 not to pump-test the older unit,” he said. “Two repair companies have also advised us concerning the steel water tank that has suffered heavy oxidation because it is made of steel and is in imminent danger of failure. Each fire truck, even though it flows water from a hydrant, also holds a certain amount of water. This one holds 750 gallons, so if the tank fails, we will walk in one morning and have 750 gallons of water on the floor.”

The tank was likely not designed to last as long as it has, Martin said, and could not be replaced because it was built into the truck.

Pumper 5 is also experiencing major problems with its fuel tank rusting due to modern fuels, the brakes not holding pressure in the lines and valves, seats and seals on the water pump being frozen, causing the vehicle to lose pressure; and the electrical system becoming old and brittle, presenting a possible fire hazard, Martin said.

“All these problems have been addressed, re-addressed, repaired and re-repaired,” Martin said. “It is ongoing. Over the last few years, the fire department has been trying to address problems with this truck, but we feel it is becoming a safety issue for the volunteers to do their job efficiently.”

After expressing support for the purchase of the new fire truck, Grogan suggested the city prepare for future upgrades of fire equipment by setting up a special fund in January to begin with the next budget year.

“There is a program in the parish where each fire department comes up for an allocation for fire trucks, but it will be six to eight years before Patterson comes up for this,” he said. “That being said, this city should have a plan, so I will ask this council to consider passing a plan in January to include in the budget an annual amount of $20,000 to $25,000 so that after we get this truck, we are ready years later when we need another truck.”

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