New fire trucks relieve equipment shortage

By Teresa McDonald

Fourteen new state-of-the-art fire trucks, five of which are headed for stations serving Centretown, will relieve equipment shortages caused by older trucks constantly in the repair shop.

With a price tag of $400,000 each, the new trucks will replace dilapidating equipment purchased in the 1970s and 1980s that carried close to $20,000 a year in repairs.

“The new equipment will ensure reliability of the responding crew. It makes our job easier because fewer trucks out for repair means less time and effort spent switching equipment between stations,” says Richard Larabie, Ottawa’s fire chief.

Part of the city’s five-year $25 million plan to revamp the fire department, the new trucks should be deployed by the end of November.

Eight will go to the urban core while the remaining six will service suburban and rural stations.

Somerset Ward Coun. Elisabeth Arnold says, “we have been well served by Centretown fire stations but it’s good news city wide, the less we have to play a chess game to serve higher density areas, the better.”

When the city amalgamated, the fire department identified several problems within the department including an aging fire fleet, but Larabie says they’re just part the growing pains all municipalities go through.

“No one is in danger, it’s a matter of maintaining service and the city has supported us by putting money into emergency services,” he says.

Equipped with all the latest bells and whistles, the new trucks come with high-powered pumps, 300 metres of hose and 100-volt emergency lights.

The city has also spent $3 million to provide Ottawa firefighters with 500 new high-tech, self-contained breathing apparatuses that sound an alarm to notify a crew if a member is injured.

“We’re giving firefighters more of the tools they need to respond to emergency situations,” Larabie says.

Two years into the replacement program, there are several improvement projects in progress — including implementing a common radio system, setting-up a central dispatch station slated for Feb. 1, 2003, and switching to an automated records system.

“We are constantly reviewing the plan and assessing what we need most, but if the city stays on course within five to six years close to half the fleet will be replaced,” Larabie explained.

Any of the salvageable trucks being taking out of regular service will be used to build up the city’s reserves.