GROUNDED: Chief seeks to replace 2 trucks placed out of service on Friday due to 'structural problems'

Cary Ashby • Updated Sep 25, 2017 at 11:28 PM

The Norwalk Fire Department has two trucks out of service due to safety concerns and now is looking to replace them.

Chief John Soisson requested the state Highway Patrol inspect two of his trucks — the 1994 Freightliner pumper/tanker and the 1985 Gruman pumper. After each vehicle failed to pass the inspections Friday, the chief immediately placed them out of service.

“We were concerned about liability because of structural problems,” Soisson said.

The Freightliner pumper/tanker is parked in the city hall parking lot.

“We were using it as a first-due engine to township fires because it originally held 1,800 gallons of water,” Soisson said. “That truck was purchased in 1994.”

After the truck had two failed booster tanks, it now holds 1,500 gallons.

The Gruman pumper sits in the bay closest to Norwalk city hall.

“It was our first new engine for years,” Soisson said. “That truck has served the citizens of Norwalk for 32 years and it was front-run for many years. If the citizens of Norwalk owe anything to any of those trucks, it’s this one.”

Firefighters removed the hoses from the Gruman pumper and placed them on a Milan Township fire truck, which is on loan from the EHOVE Career Center fire academy. The volunteer fire department had donated the vehicle to the vocational school.

“We were fortunate that Milan Township purchased two engines in the last five years,” Soisson said.

The chief called Milan Township Fire Chief Brian Rospert about the donated truck and he directed Soisson to Doug Nash and Jamie Starcher, who run the EHOVE fire academy.

“They said we could use it on a temporary loan,” Soisson said.

That leaves the Norwalk Fire Department in need of replacing two trucks, with the most recent vehicle being 16 years old.

“Which in most places would be going out of service,” the chief said. 

“This is the fifth straight year we’ve requested a new truck,” added Soisson, who plans to bring up the issue of new fire trucks to Norwalk city council tonight. 

Mayor Rob Duncan was on vacation and unavailable for comment.

Soission said his plan is approach council about purchasing two trucks — one new, one used. Firefighters estimate the average life span of a truck is 20 to 25 years.

“We’re going to have to have something that can be delivered pretty quick,” Soission said. “New engines are around a half-million dollars. We don’t want to short ourselves. We are doing our best to scratch and claw to get a better price.”

Soisson outlined his future plan for rotating his fleet. The chief said he wants a consistent rotation so no single truck gets overused and the city hopefully will buy a new vehicle every 10 years.

“A truck should last 30 years with a replacement every 10 years — and that’s a long time for fire service,” Soisson said. “We haven’t had a new engine in 16 years. … We keep trucks longer than most departments.”

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