Breakdown Highlights State of New Orleans Fire Department Fleet

Firefighters preparing to rush to the scene of a vehicle fire early Friday found themselves stranded at their Clara Street station when their truck wouldn’t start.

To make matters worse, while an engine from another nearby station was dispatched to the blaze on Toledano Street, firefighters who headed out to New Orleans East from the Clara Street station found that the spare truck they were planning to pick up there also was inoperable.

The breakdowns highlight the decaying state of the Fire Department’s fleet, which is mostly made up of engines that are more than 10 years old.

While both Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration and firefighters agree there is a need to replace the trucks, the speed with which that will occur has opened a new front in the ongoing battle between the two sides.

The age of the trucks has been a problem for years, firefighters union President Nick Felton said Friday.

“This is an ever-growing problem. Now, it’s getting worse and worse, and it’s going to happen continuously,” he said. “The spare fire truck that they just placed in service has broken down continuously.”

While promising that moves are being made to replace at least some of the trucks in the fleet, Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell said there just hasn’t been money to buy new equipment.

“I’m not really happy my firefighters don’t have the finest, newest fire trucks,” he said.

Firefighters union officials, who have been locked in a battle with Landrieu over lawsuits dealing with back pay and pension issues, highlighted the breakdowns and other recent equipment failures Friday as part of their ongoing effort to portray the Landrieu administration as indifferent to firefighters and their safety.

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