Union officials concerned about aging fleet in Mass. department

Crews believe the two 2006 engines are unreliable, and it's time for an upgrade

The Eagle-Tribune

HAVERHILL, Mass. — Two 2006 Fire Department pumper trucks with 74,000 and 93,000 miles on them are “unreliable due to age and every day wear-and-tear,” according to emails the firefighters union sent to city councilors.

The most alarming part of that assertion by the union is that the 2006 models are the newest and best of the department’s eight-vehicle pumper truck fleet, according to the emails.

The city’s other six pumpers are much older, each with more than 100,000 miles on them, according to the union. They include four trucks bought by the city in the 1980s. The oldest is a 1984 model with 110,000 miles, and the most used is a 1995 model with 159,000 miles, the union said.

“Our mechanic has done his best to maintain the integrity of this truck, but it’s age and every day wear-and-tear make it unreliable,” read emails from the union’s Public Safety Committee about each of the eight pumper trucks.

“Safety is our priority,” the emails read. “We want to keep city leaders notified of any issues that may compromise the safety of the citizens of Haverhill, as well as the members of the Haverhill Fire Department. Not only has our fire apparatus become a safety issue, but is also interferes with everyday efficiency.”

Councilor Thomas Sullivan, who has asked for a response to the union’s concerns about the pumper trucks from Public Safety Commissioner Alan DeNaro, said the time has come to begin replacing the vehicles.

Sullivan said DeNaro, who oversees the fire and police departments, will attend Tuesday’s council meeting with fire Chief Richard Borden to give a report on the trucks.

“I want to know how bad these trucks really are and what the plan is to begin replacing them,” Sullivan said.

Mayor James Fiorentini said he has asked DeNaro to hire a consultant to inspect the pumper trucks and provide the city with a professional assessment of their condition. Fiorentini said he intends to propose buying at least one new pumper truck in a capital plan he is working on.

The mayor noted the city has spent more money on capital expenditures for the Fire Department than any other department, except schools. He said some of that new equipment includes protective gear and clothing for firefighters, breathing units and a $1 million ladder truck bought five years ago. The city also has made major repairs to the Bradford fire station and other fire houses, the mayor said.

In their emails, the firefighters also invited Fiorentini and all nine councilors to take a ride on each of the pumper trucks to “experience its declining condition.”

Fiorentini said he was unaware of the invitation, but that he’d “love to go for a ride-along” on one of the pumper trucks.

The firefighters union’s emails said the city’s other pumper trucks are: A 1987 model with 129,000 miles; a 1987 model with 109,000 miles; a 1995 model with 118,000 miles; and a 1999 model with 125,000 miles.

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