Springfield to spend $1.1M to replace aging fire truck, ambulances

The Springfield Fire/Rescue Division will spend about $1.1 million to upgrade its aging fleet next year, its first new vehicles since 2010.

The fire department will spend about $560,000 for a new rescue engine, including $100,000 from the city’s permanent improvement fund. The department will also spend about $540,000 on three new ambulance units.

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The current rescue engine has been in service for about 20 years, Springfield Fire Chief Nick Heimlich said. It’s had a long list of issues, including problems with the pump and motor.

“It’s a high-dollar piece of equipment that’s unique,” he said. “We’ve been able to manage to get it to this point.”

A new vehicle for battalion chiefs will also be purchased at a cost of about $36,000.

The rescue engine will be the first piece of new equipment purchased since a ladder truck in 2010, Assistant Fire Chief Brian Miller said. The agency currently has multiple vehicles that are more than 10 years old, including a few models from the 1990s.

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The fire division’s annual budget is about $13.5 million and has 127 employees. It averages about 50 to 55 calls per day, he said.

In 2015, it saw a 23-year high for EMS runs with more than 17,000 calls. Last year its calls dipped to about 16,500.

A loss of revenue from both the state government and an economic downturn has left the city unable to purchase new fire trucks and ambulances, Miller said. The division has purchased used ambulances and a used ladder truck in the past few years.

As part of the campaign for a local income tax increase approved by voters this year, city leaders said they would update the aging fleets with part of the $6.7 million annually it generates. That’s allowed the division to buy new vehicles next year, Bodenmiller said.

The division remains about $3.75 million to $4.25 million behind in vehicle purchases, Assistant Chief Rodney Rahrle said.

“Our fleet is well past its scheduled lifetime,” Rahrle said. “We have a vehicle that’s 20 years old. You just don’t find that at a department our size that makes the amount of runs we do. Oddly enough, it’s one of the ones that won’t break. It’s always in service.”

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The medic fleet costs a lot of money to keep on the road, Rahrle said. The division currently has no back-up ambulances because two are currently under repair, he said.

“If something goes down, a station doesn’t have a medic unit,” he said.

The fire division recently put together a committee to examine new ambulances, Rahrle said. It will purchase medic units from Texas-based Frazer Ltd that will be placed on a light-duty gasoline chassis assembled at the Navistar plant in Springfield.

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“We’re pleased to use a local manufacturer to get that done,” Miller said.

The ambulances will be powered by generators, he said, meaning the cab and chassis won’t need as much power to operate in the front.

“All of those things save money, give us a better ride,” Rahrle said.


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By the Numbers

$1.1 million: Amount of money the Springfield Fire/Rescue Division will spend on new vehicles this year.

$560,000: Amount of money the division will spend on a new rescue engine.

$540,000: Amount of money the division will spend on three new ambulances.

Staying with the story

The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about the city’s budget issues and the recent income tax increase, including stories digging into a performance audit and its plan for how to spend the tax increase.

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