Fire Chief Requesting Replacement of Damaged Trucks
Two out of the town's three fire trucks are not up to code and are essentially out of service, leaving the town in a dangerous position should fires occur. Fire Chief Andrew Melnikas is requesting they be replaced with new ones.
North Andover is in a firefighting crisis as two of the Fire Department's trucks have serious defects that render them essentially useless and may be putting the town in peril.
Fire Chief Andrew Melnikas has asked Town Hall for money to replace a motor in Engine 3 and a ladder in Engine 1.
The Engine That Can't
Engine 3 is a 1985 Emergency One vehicle with 120,000 miles on it and is currently not up to code because it doesn't have a completely enclosed cab. To replace the cab would be $50,000.
It also needs a new motor. It overheats constantly, so it must be allowed to cool before going on a call. A new motor would be a New England Detroit Diesel motor, which would be about $35,000, bringing the total cost of repairing the truck to $85,000. This doesn't include the cost of other repairs needed to return Engine 3 to service.
Melnikas estimates that the cost of a new engine to be between $300,000 and $400,000, which he feels would be a better investment than repairs to the current truck.
"I equate it to having a car with 150,000 miles and you put a new engine in it, and what happens a month from now, the brakes go, the transmission goes, and it's back to where you were."
Engine 3 is a back-up vehicle, which presents a huge problem because another vehicle is shot as well. Ladder 1 is a 1994 Smeal/Spartan Quint with 98,000 miles on it and serves as a pumper as well as a ladder truck. It's out of service because it does not meet National Fire Protection Association compliance. To overhaul the engine on this truck would be almost $22,000, but the bigger issue is with the truck's outriggers.
Outriggers extend the ladder and make the ladder operable. The outrigger area of Ladder 1 is severely rotted with a three-inch rot hole. Melnikas contacted a mechanic and the manufacturer, and the estimated cost to overhaul the outrigger area would be $130,000.
"You can't put the ladder up because the two legs that would stabilize it have a three-inch rot hole and its really rotting out and wouldn't be safe," Melnikas said. "I wouldn't put a firefighter on that."
Ladder 1 also has severe rust all over, particularly in the frame so the truck's pump is held in place by just one bolt. Cost to repair that would be $120,000, bringing the total up to $250,000 for Ladder 1.
Running on Luck
With these two vehicles out of service, that leaves just one fire vehicle properly up to code in the town. This means that if the town has a fire that requires a ladder, the Fire Department must contact a neighboring community for assistance. This could take several crucial minutes away from getting a fire under control and rescuing anyone inside.
"We haven't had any incidents yet where we've had to call for a ladder luckily," Melnikas said. "Of course, I probably put the whammy on it by saying that."
Melnikas has requested two new vehicles to replace the damaged ones. Winter is coming and with people running their heat and fireplaces, winter tends to be the most dangerous time for fires. Melnikas said that a new vehicle would not rot in the harsh New England weather conditions.
The Political Path Forward
Melnikas met with the Finance Committee to present his case this week.
"I probably talked for upward of an hour and I had a good feeling coming out of there," Melnikas said. "The Finance Committee will ultimately have to vote to approve it or not."
If the Finance Committee approves of the plan to replace the vehicles, then an emergency Town Meeting will have to be called so residents can vote on the issue.
Selectmen will meet Monday night and are expected to call for an emergency Town Meeting. The Finance Committee meets next on Oct. 14, when they will likely cast their votes on the matter.