Willmar Fire Chief/Fire Marshal Frank Hanson is proposing the City Council replace an aging pumper truck with a multi-system pumper that Hanson explains would help firefighting operations in a number of ways.
The back passenger area in the proposed $650,000 vehicle could be quickly converted to a command center where two or possibly three commanders would use multiple laptops for several important monitoring and research functions.
Using a program that the department has had since 2010, one commander would be able to warn firefighters if their air supply is running low. Also, the commander could detect if firefighters have stopped moving or have fallen, and warn firefighters if they must exit a dangerous situation.
Another commander would research websites for information to help firefighters fight a specific type of fire, such as a chemical fire. Even if commanders didn’t know the exact type of chemical, they can enter a description, such as a green cloud, and give the information to firefighters before they begin their attack.
The current command center is the front seat of a 2007 Ford pickup truck where one commander, or possibly two if there’s room, must switch back and forth between programs on one laptop.
Besides hauling water, the proposed vehicle would have a fill station to refill firefighters’ airpack bottles on-site. Right now, Willmar calls out the Kandiyohi County Rescue Squad to refill the bottles.
“If we have our own fill station, it would be more self-sufficient. Then we wouldn’t have to call the rescue squad unless we had a major incident that we needed extra people or extra air,” said Hanson.
Whether or not the Fire Department gets the proposed pumper will depend on decisions made by City Council members as they work during the next couple of months toward finalizing spending decisions on the mayor’s proposed 2016 budget.
Preliminary votes taken two weeks ago on the 2016 vehicle replacement program and capital improvement program indicate council members favor spending $400,000 as proposed by Mayor Marv Calvin for a new pumper, rather than what Hanson proposed.
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