Auburn-Williams (MI) Fire District Displays New Fire Apparatus

The Auburn-Williams Fire District has a new $498,000 weapon in its arsenal — one local officials say makes the community safer than ever before. 

The district purchased its first aerial fire truck in January to replace an aging fire engine that has been in service for 20 years. Though the new purchase brings the district’s number of vehicles to four, Fire Chief John Martinski said his staff’s newest addition brings a separate, unique tool: the long ladder, which Martinski said can put firefighters 78 feet in the air.

“We already have three engines now,” Martinski said “What we were thinking is, if we go out to a fire and an engine can’t do the job … all we have is the same equipment coming.” 

Fireman Al Lisius explained that the new ladder helps firefighters “vent” fires, a process by which they cut a hole in the roof of a structure to allow trapped gases to escape. The process is imperative, Lisius said, because concentrated fumes can cause a deadly explosion.

“When you get a little bit of air in there, what you get is called a ‘flashover,’ ” he said. “And if you’re in there, you’re dead.” 

Though Auburn-Williams firefighters already vent buildings, Lisius said that the aerial helps firefighters keep up with changing architecture. Metal roofs can often be slippery for firefighters attempting to scale a building from the ground, and new building methods increasingly leave roofs weaker during a fire, he said, putting first responders at risk.

He said future buildings might also be built taller, in which case the new truck would be even more important.

Auburn Mayor Lee Kilbourn said the new truck allows firefighters to get on a rooftop with fewer people. As a result, the community is that much safer as firefighters can respond appropriately to fires more quickly.

“We’re an all-volunteer department,” Kilbourn explained. “If you had a structure fire in the middle of the day when all the guys are at work … you can start working on the fire with fewer men.” 

Martinski said the new truck is a deal. Although the nearly $500,000 price tag makes it nearly $80,000 more expensive than a new model without a ladder, the aerial truck has already been in service as a sales demonstration truck. It only has 10,000 miles on it — mostly on the highway, Martinski said — but it came discounted by about $120,000. 

The funding, Martinski said, came from the district’s budget, which is jointly funded by the city of Auburn and Williams Township, and was supplemented with a $40,000 grant from Dow Corning Corp., which has its corporate headquarters in Williams Township.

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