Before dawn on Monday, a long awaited package will be delivered to the fire department — two brand new, bright red fire engines.
Capital City Fire and Rescue Chief Richard Etheridge says the new engines are expected to arrive around 4 a.m. Monday on the ferry, which leaves from Bellingham, Wash., on Friday.
“We’re hoping to have them in service by the end of month,” Etheridge said.
One of the new Pierce engines, which can hold up to 750 gallons of water, will replace a 1985 Seagrave engine, which is currently the back-up engine at the Glacier station, located at the airport.
After about 20 years of service, the Seagrave has experienced some heavy corrosion on its frame, and it was time for it to retire, Etheridge said. Twenty years is the average lifespan of a fire engine.
The other new engine will go to the downtown Juneau station. A unit there will, in turn, replace an older engine at the Lynn Canal station.
Glacier and Juneau are the two district stations staffed by career firefighters that provide the bulk of the city’s medical and fire fighting services.
Once the new engines arrive in Juneau and spend a little time in the mechanic’s shop for last-minute touches, Etheridge said the fire department is planning a public event to commemorate the christening of the new apparatuses. That event is still being organized, and more information will be available in the near future.
The process of buying the two engines began in January of 2010. First, the city hired a buying group to find the lowest price available to streamline the bidding process. They selected a manufacturer, Pierce, whose representatives then flew up to Juneau to take a look at the current engines.
CCFR collaborated with Pierce engineers to draw up specifications for the engines and to tailor them to their needs. Etheridge and CCFR mechanic Scott Reid flew to Appleton, Wisc., twice to help draw up the plans for the engines right on the factory floor, one in October of 2010 to inspect the engines, and also in February of 2011 for last minute modifications.
Now, the long wait is over.
“I think it’s every exciting,” he said. “It was definitely a learning experience, and it was a lot of fun.”
The engines cost $1.2 million altogether. The money is part of the fire department’s budgeted expenses, and each year they set aside funds to save for them.
Most of CCFR’s engines are old Seagraves, Etheridge said, and the plan is to keep rotating them out slowly to spread the expense out over time.
The last time CCFR purchased new fire engines was in 2005. Etheridge anticipates buying another one next year, too.
Currently, CCFR has six total fire engines — one at each of the five stations, with two at Glacier station.
In addition to the engines, CCFR also has two ladder trucks (one at Juneau station, one at Glacier); a tanker at the Juneau station that can hold 3,000 gallons of water for the Thane Road area; a rescue truck at Glacier station; two small squad rescue trucks (one in Douglas, the other in Auke Bay); and specialized rescue and airport rescue equipment at the Glacier Station. The Juneau and Glacier stations also operate two ambulances each, as well as an ambulance in the Douglas and Auke Bay stations.
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