GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With a ladder that reaches 100 feet in the air and a pump that can put 2,000 gallons of water on a fire every minute, the Grand Rapids Fire Department has added $1.7 million worth of life-saving equipment to its firefighting and rescue arsenal.
After crews are fully trained, the new aerial tower will respond from the Kalamazoo Avenue Firehouse.
The ladder truck, one of four in front line service in the city, was supposed to be purchased a few years from now.
But fire planners took another look at the calendar and started crunching the number.
“Prices, historically when we look back 30 years, went up about 6% a year. We saw a 23% increase in the last 2 years,” Deputy Fire Chief Brad Brown said.
There’s also a two to three year wait for the same truck built from the ground up.
So instead of ordering a custom-built ladder truck as they have in the past, the GRFD bought the demonstrator off the floor of a fire trade show this summer.
While inflation and supply chain shortages have hit us all, first responders are also feeling the pinch.
The difference? Your family’s safety could be impacted.
“My job is to make sure my people have the tools they need to do their job. Frankly, the last couple years, that’s been tough,” Brown said.
Another way the GRFD is dealing with the problem is hitting the used fire engine lots.
“This is our new (reserve) engine 16, even though it’s 20 plus years old,” GRFD Lt. John Valenta said as he and his crew prepared the used engine for firefighting duty.
The 2001 model was purchased from a small fire department in Illinois for $50,000. It’s the equivalent of a used car only driven to church on Sunday.
Along with the two to three years wait, the engine, if it was purchased new, would cost in the neighborhood of three quarters of a million dollars.
But it’s filling critical need in Grand Rapids.
Front line fire rigs in the city are run hard, responding to some 25,000 calls a year.
When a front-line engine or ladder goes in for maintenance, they need dependable back up.
“When we send a rig out, the lead time on parts is ridiculous. A repair that used to take one week may take three months now,” Brown said.
But a few years ago, fire officials found the backup fleet was in bad shape.
Replacing it would take years and cost millions.
So the GRFD began investing in low millage, used apparatus to get the job done.
Fire official say It’s not the best solution, but it is working.
“Just know, the fire departments doing everything we can to make sure that when the bells go off, that the rig actually goes down the road and gets us there to help,” Brown said.