Haverhill (MA) Fire Chief Pushes for Updating Fire Apparatus Fleet

Haverhill (MA) plans to buy a new pumper fire truck this summer, but fire officials say there’s still a long way to go to update the aging fleet.

Fire Chief Richard Borden said Haverhill is many years behind in replacing its fleet of eight pumper trucks due to the city’s past financial problems.

Borden said the city should have replaced one truck in 2008 and another in 2011. The last new pumpers were purchased in 2005, he said.

In response to concerns raised by the firefighter’s union that all the pumper trucks are old and unreliable, Mayor James Fiorentini asked the council for approval to borrow $420,000 for one new truck. The council is expected to approve the request at its first meeting in January.
Borden said two trucks should be replaced as soon as possible.

“We need two new front-line pumpers,” the fire chief said. “I’m glad the mayor is doing one now. It will allow us to take a 1995 off-line, which is something we should do as soon as possible.”

Six of the department’s eight pumper trucks have more than 100,000 miles on them and four were bought by the city in the 1980s. The oldest is a 1984 model with 110,000 miles, and the truck used most is a 1995 model with 159,000 miles, fire official said. As a general rule, pumper trucks should be replaced after 10 to 12 years of service, Borden said.

The fire chief said the newer trucks are used as the department’s front-line engines, and the older ones are kept as backups. However, he said the backups are regularly pressed into front-line action on large incidents and when newer trucks are being worked on.

Several councilors said they want the mayor to start putting aside $100,000 every year in an account to buy new pumper trucks, which cost between $400,000 and $500,000.

Public Safety Commission Alan DeNaro, who oversee the police and fire department, said he plans to form a committee of firefighters to make recommendations on specifications for the new pumper truck. The process of designing and ordering a specific truck from the manufacturer can take several months, officials said.

Councilors heard from the chiefs Tuesday after the firefighters union sent emails to them last month stating that all eight of the department’s pumper trucks are “unreliable due to age and every day wear-and-tear.” The union said the department’s mechanic has done his best to keep the pumper trucks running properly.

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