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Topeka gets fire truck recommendations


With one fire truck at 34 years old and out of service, as well as two others that have less than 10 years of service life, the Topeka Fire Department is looking at options to replace its fire trucks. At Monday’s town council meeting, fire fighter Chris Miller, representing the truck committee, brought several options that would update the department’s trucks, while keeping the town’s fire safety rating. Also attending were Eden and Clearspring township trustees.

Currently, the 1979 fire engine, Engine 33, is out of service and Miller noted that there have been numerous mechanical issues with this engine. Some of the issues are more expensive to fixe than the value of the truck, he added.

A second truck, Rescue 30, is a 1999 step van that has been fitted to be a rescue truck that is overloaded and is already showing signs of mechanical and electrical issues. The department estimates that Rescue 30 has up to five years of service life left.

Engine 31, also a 1999 truck, has limited capabilities, Miller said, and the department expects to have up to eight years of service life left with that truck.

Engine 32 is a 2004 fire engine that currently responds to all fires, accidents, alarms and mutual aid runs, Miller said, which puts a larger amount of wear and tear and mileage on the truck. The engine has up to 16 years of service life left, the council was told.

The committee had four recommendations for the department that would replace Engine 33 immediately and see three to four new vehicles in the next 16 years.

Option one would see the department purchasing a new 75 ft. “quint,” a combination of an engine and an aerial truck with a 75 ft. ladder. This would have a pump, on board water, fire hose, ground ladders and aerial ladder.

Under option 1, a rescue-engine would be purchased in 3-5 years and a new engine purchased in 14-16 years. When the rotation is complete, the department would end up with one fewer vehicle by replacing both Rescue 30 and Engine 31 with the rescue-engine, while still maintaining the fire safety rating (ISO).

The estimated costs are:

$623,000 – 75 ft. quint

$721, 000 – rescue-engine

$1,160,000 – engine

$2.5 million total over 14-16 years.

A second option would see the department replace Engine 33 with a rescue-engine, then see Rescue 30 replaced in 3-5 years, Engine 31 in 5-8 years and engine 32 in 14-16 years.

Although the initial cost would be lower with the purchase of a rescue-engine versus a quint, the overall costs would be greater, with an estimated $3 million for four trucks over 16 years. Miller noted that this option would also limit the department’s capabilities by not having an aerial device. Although Shipshewana and LaGrange have aerial trucks that can be called in, the council was told, that can take up to 20 minutes or more for them to arrive, by which time the fire has increased considerably.

Option 3 would see the department getting a fire engine, not a rescue-engine, to replace the out of service truck, as well as a rescue truck in 3-5 years, an engine in 5-8 and another engine in 14-16 years for an estimated total of $2,762,000.

Option 4 is similar to option 1, but would see a rescue-engine purchased first and a quint in 3-8 years with an engine purchased in 14-16 years. Because the quint would be purchased later, the cost would increase some, raising the estimated total for all three to $2,636,000.

Both option 2 and 3 would require the department to purchase up to three new trucks in the next 5-8 years. Options 1 and 4 would require only two trucks in the next 5-8 years and only three new apparatuses over the next 16 years.

The council and the township trustees will look at the options and meet in special session again on March 25.