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New fire engine is a necessary expenditure that is in the best interests of the town
As a past fire chief for Friday Harbor, I, too, was initially skeptical about the need to spend around $600,000 for a new fire engine. So I spent time talking to Chief Long and other fire personnel and became convinced this is a necessary expenditure in the best interests of the town.
New fire engines are expensive and they just get more expensive the longer we wait. I led the design team and purchase of Engine 7, the one with the aerial ladder, so I know something about this. There were folks against Engine 7’s cost, but that went away very quickly as the engine proved its value.
Former fire chief Bob Low claims the 1,500 gallon-per-minute pump is not needed because most of our hydrants can’t supply at that rate. This is short-term thinking. A new engine has a service life of 20 years. Town hydrants are continually upgraded and more of them will meet this flow demand over time. And 1,500 gpm can make a big difference in many fire scenarios over a 1,200 gpm pumper.
Engine 7 was designed to have the CAF (compressed air foam) system but it wasn’t included in the initial purchase. It was budgeted for the following year but Low didn’t get it installed. Some District 3 engines have CAF but we need redundancy. Town engines will be first on scene to most town incidents and first to mount an interior attack when CAF is most valuable with lighter-weight hose lines and the ability to put out fire with less water damage to a structure and contents. Also, District 3 engines could be involved elsewhere when Town has an incident. The Town is 10 years overdue to have this valuable system and be trained to use it.
The Town already has two used engines that are inadequate to our needs. Buying yet another used engine to save money in the short-term will prove more expensive in the long-term, because its replacement will coincide with Engine 7’s, making replacement of two engines at once necessary.
Finally, I was at that Sept. 17 Town Council meeting where funding the new fire engine was left to the treasurer to determine. Emergency funds were talked about but not designated. It’s entirely premature to claim that emergency funds will be needed since they likely will not.
— Howie Rosenfeld is a member of the San Juan County Council. He is a former Friday Harbor fire chief and former Town Council member.