Tupper Lake fire department may upgrade trucks

TUPPER LAKE – The village board is apprehensive about the condition of its fire trucks.

Fire Chief Carl Steffan brought a list of pressing repairs to the village board last month that included a faulty exhaust system, a leaking water tank, a rotting oil pan and a leaking foam supply line.

During Monday’s board meeting, Steffan said some repairs had been made, but the age of the fire trucks is still cause for concern. He added that all of the department’s trucks are in service, but they are also all in need of repair.

Truck 165, which was made in 1995, is particularly worrisome because it’s a first-run truck.

“This (truck 165) is the one that travels the most,” Steffan said. “In the past, if you look at the way we did trucks, you had seven years, so the truck was a front-run truck for seven years, then it was moved back. This truck has been way more than seven years as a front-run truck.”

Trustee Rick Donah, who is also the village fire commissioner, asked if it’s considered best practice for a first-run truck to be in service for more than 15 years. Steffan said it isn’t.

“So that’s the truck that, in terms of targeting a replacement, that we need to target,” Donah said. “A new front-run truck, the truck that goes out every day, this is the one we have a lot of the maintenance issues with.”

Steffan agreed and recommended getting someone outside the department to look at the three pump trucks and advise which one should be replaced.

Donah said he was concerned that the deteriorating trucks could render the village unable to fulfill a new service contract with the town of Santa Clara. The contract begins Jan. 1 and extends the village’s fire coverage into the southern portion of that town for the next five years.

“There could be a catastrophic failure in one of these trucks tomorrow, and then we can’t honor our fire contract without the proper response vehicles,” Donah said. “We’re going to have to sit down with the town and discuss and determine how we move forward. Ultimately it falls through to that contract, and they want to feel like they’re being included in that discussion. I think it’s right to bring those discussions to them and feel like we’re planning ahead.”

Donah added that everyone needs to understand that the village has been running its fire trucks for a long time, and none have been replaced in a while.

“The 2006 is our newest truck, and that’s eight years old,” Donah said.

Trustee Thomas Snyder reminded Donah that a catastrophic failure could also occur with a new truck.

“I think everyone really understands it, Rick, and if money was no object here, they would have a new one, but that’s the biggest problem,” Snyder said.

Donah countered by saying the issue is more about safety.

“But Tom, we spend money on buying new electric trucks, we spend money on new water and sewer trucks, so we’re going to spend money on new fire trucks if we need to,” Donah said. “It’s my department to oversee, and we need to make sure the community is served the right way.”

Donah added that planning ahead is all he wants to accomplish.

Mayor Paul Maroun ended the discussion by telling the board the chief needs to determine exactly what his department needs.

“What I’ve asked the chief to do is put a committee together to first establish what kind of a truck we’re looking at, and come back to our board,” Mayor Paul Maroun said. “The most important thing a government can do is protect its citizens. We know that money is tight, but we’ve go to try to do something here.”