Caroll County VA Unveils Plan to Replace Fire Apparatus Fleet

A multi-million dollar plan to replace many of Carroll County’s fire trucks was unveiled to the county’s board of supervisors.

Following an unrelated presentation to supervisors, Carroll County Emergency Services Director Mike Mock was asked about a replacement plan for the county’s fire apparatuses. The plan includes several vehicles that need to be replaced, including brush trucks, utility vehicles, pumpers and pumper tankers, Mock said. Board Chairman David Hutchins noted later in the meeting that the plan will begin in 2016 and run through 2023 or 2024 with annual investments between $450,000 and $550,000.

Mock said the plan covers many aspects with fire apparatuses. Many things must be considered, he said, such as age and condition of each apparatus, if it has a fire pump, and how much it will cost annually to maintain a vehicle. Mock said the National Fire Protection Association recommends the replacement of fire apparatuses every 20 years.

“A lot of people say, ‘What if my apparatus can run longer than that?’ Well, if it is in good shape it is probably not a problem,” Mock said.

“Some departments may need to replace them every seven or eight years. It’s really according to the situation you haveThey certainly don’t like for them to go more than 25 years on a fire truck such as a pumper or a ladder truck or something of that nature.”

That’s because things are developed over the years to make apparatuses safer for people to drive, Mock said. Brake systems are done much differently than they were 20 years ago. Drive trains on the trucks are also much different than two decades ago.

“And frankly, after 20 years you start having a hard time finding parts for them anyway to replace them,” Mock said. “So a lot of that was considered in this plan, and if you look at the overall fleet we are talking about in this part of the plan you will see that some of our trucks are pretty old, some of them as much as 30 years old. We have a brush truck I think that is 40 years old.”

Mock listed the Laurel Fork Volunteer Fire Department as a good example. It has a truck that has been out of service for a while, even though it’s the department’s only tanker.

“If one of their other pumpers goes out of service, there is not a backup truck for that truck. So then they are down a truck and it creates problems for them trying to respond and do it in a timely manner,” Mock said. “Some of the trucks in Cana are aged and that’s identified in the plan. A lot of the trucks in Hillsville are becoming aged and need to be looked at also.”

Mock said he tried to do a fair review and balance the plan over a period of time so the county could try to pay for it in the future. It will be difficult, he said, because the apparatuses don’t get cheaper. They can range anywhere from $350,000 for a tanker up to $600,000 or $700,000 for certain types of pumpers.

Looking at Mock’s plan, Hutchins said 2016 would be the first year the project would be listed in the county budget as a capital improvement plan. The first year’s investment is listed at $375,000, Hutchins said, with costs increasing to $450,000 to $550,000 from 2017 up to 2024.

That, coupled with Qualified School Construction Bond payments of $1.5 million the county will start paying on soon for the renovations of the high school and middle school, leaves the county in a tough spot.

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