Vashon’s fire department has begun the process of buying a new fire engine, following the failure of another engine last spring.
The age of the district’s vehicles was a frequent topic during its levy campaign last year. Vashon Island Fire & Rescue (VIFR) officials had been planning to replace the engine that failed next year, but now feel they need to act more quickly.
“With a little luck, we will probably see a new truck in March or April,” VIFR Chief Charlie Krimmert said last week.
The engine the district is replacing was 26 years old, Krimmert said. At its annual pump test in May, it experienced a “catastrophic failure” of the pump and some of the mechanics of the vehicle.
That engine had been located at the Burton fire station. To help compensate for its loss, Krimmert said the district has moved an engine from Dockton to Burton, the more frequently used station. The Dockton station is now housing the district’s oldest engine, which at 37 years old, had been retired and was only used ceremonially. It is now back in service, but Krimmert cautioned that it has not responded to a call for many years.
He believes the island needs three capable engines at a minimum. His concern is not so much about a fire right now, he said, but about a problem involving either of the two other engines.
“Then I would get really nervous,” he said. “They are 17 years old, and any time we take them out, we could get in an accident.”
Under regular circumstances, state law requires that fire departments follow a bidding process for purchases such as an engine, but because this was an emergency situation, the district was able to expedite the purchase. The board unanimously voted to waive the bidding process at its July 11 meeting. Krimmert noted that he confirmed the legality of following a faster purchase track with the state auditor.
Typically, buying a fire engine takes about a year, he said, and foregoing the bidding process will likely shorten that by three to four months.
Krimmert also stated he believes moving ahead in this way will not be more expensive for the district.
“We have a strong relationship with this vendor, and we do not think it is going to cost us more than we anticipated it would,” he said.
The district is planning to purchase a slightly smaller engine than it currently owns, with a smaller wheelbase, to more easily make it down Vashon’s narrow roads and driveways.
Krimmert previously anticipated the district would need to spend $400,000 to $500,000 for a new engine, but he believes this engine will cost between $300,000 and $400,000.