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Firefighters: Shortage of fire trucks has reached 'crisis' level

If one more fire truck breaks, the city will be forced to respond to fires with pickup trucks


By Emily Opilo
The Morning Call

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Allentown's firefighters made a public plea to Allentown City Council Wednesday to invest in new firetrucks for the city saying that the the current equipment shortage has reached a "crisis" level.

Keith Pierce, the city fire department's safety representative, said that as of this week, all of the city's reserve fire equipment has been moved to the front line due to break downs with several pieces of the city's first responding equipment.

If one more fire truck breaks, the city will be forced to respond to fires with pickup trucks, Pierce said.

"We are essentially returning to material conditions that we were in nine years ago," Pierce said.

Firefighter Adam Perreault told members of council that the fire department is the only city department without an approved equipment replacement plan in place despite the fact that the chief of the department has repeatedly submitted one.

Council President Ray O'Connell said the condition of the city's fire equipment is "embarrassing" and a "slap in the face" to the city's firefighters.

"The budget comes down from the mayor's office," said O'Connell who is currently running against Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

O'Connell questioned Public Works Director Craig Messinger who controls the city's vehicle fleet about the fire equipment. Messinger said he sits on the fleet committee with the fire chief and is well aware of the need in the department. The committee has repeatedly "put forth what needs to be replaced," but funding is needed, he said.

The city has attempted to maintain the aging fire trucks it has, Messinger said, but the older the trucks get, the more difficult that becomes, he said.

"Parts aren't available like they used to be," Messinger said. "Some of the trucks, they have to make the parts."

Controller Jeff Glazier said that Allentown's five-year capital plan includes plans to buy a new firetruck in 2018 and two more in 2019.

Jeremy Warmkessel, president of the city firefighters union, said new firetrucks have been included in the capital plan before but were cut before money could be allocated.

"For me, it's where the rubber meets the road," Pierce said. "It's when those trucks back into the station for the first time."

O'Connell pledged to meet with representatives from the fire department to discuss the issue further.

Pawlowski could not be reached late Wednesday for comment.

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