Ill. fire dept. awarded $500K to replace 21-year-old engine

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant will pay for a new 2017 fire engine

By Jennifer Johnson
Pioneer Press Newspapers

PARK RIDGE, Ill. — A grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will allow the Park Ridge Fire Department to replace a 21-year-old fire engine after attempts to obtain city funding reportedly failed.

According to the fire department, the $500,000 grant from FEMA's Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program will allow for the purchase of a new, state-of-the-art 2017 fire engine, which will be assigned to crews at the city's south side station at Devon and Cumberland avenues.

The grant requires a $50,000 match from the city, the fire department said.

Fire Chief Jeff Sorensen said the engine that is facing replacement has nearly 130,000 miles and frequently requires repairs. Due to its age, many parts are not immediately available, leading to downtime periods that have stretched for more than a week at a time, Sorensen said.

"Maintenance costs and times of it being out of service are both high," Sorensen said.

Though he contends that service was not impacted, not having the engine available does present some concerns.

"There were days when we didn't have any backup vehicles at all," Sorensen said. "And that's a problem because if you have a large fire or multiple incidents and you have additional personnel come in, they won't have a vehicle to use."

The department also uses an engine that is 10 years old and its newest. When the 2017 engine is delivered some time next year, the 2006 engine will be moved to the north side fire department at Oakton Street and Greenwood Avenue, Sorensen said.

According to Sorensen, despite requests to Park Ridge's previous city manager, money was not set aside in recent city budgets to replace the 21-year-old fire engine. A second engine, which is about the same age, is also in need of replacement, Sorensen said.

"They've just been pushed back and back," he said, attributing the delay to the city's financial condition over the past several years.

Money for city vehicle replacement — from squad cars to snow plows — comes from the city's Motor Equipment Replacement Fund, Sorensen explained. According to an August memo shared with the City Council, the MERF contains just under $3 million in fund balance revenue.

It is expected that the engine being replaced will be sold at auction, Sorensen said, estimating its value at around $10,000.

Sorensen credited Fire Department Executive Officer Paul Lisowski for the grant's approval, saying Lisowski has been working to find ways to bring more grant funding into the department.

"It's important we were able to get this grant because it would have been difficult to get this fire engine any other way," Sorensen said.

In 2014, the fire department was also the recipient of a $512,850 from FEMA for the hiring of three firefighter/paramedics over a period of two years.

Copyright 2016 Pioneer Press Newspapers

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