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August 18, 2017

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CFD's Rapidly Aging Fleet Causes Station Closures, Unnecessary Relocations and Other Problems
Updated On: Jul 29, 2012
A NCFD Reserve Ladder Truck in service as a CFD Ladder Truck and being operated by CFD members because two CFD ladder trucks are out of service.

 

"The Charleston Firefighters Association would like to send a special thanks to Chief Bulanow and our brothers in the North Charleston Fire Department for loaning the CFD a reserve ladder truck so that we can continue to serve the great citizens of Charleston!"
- Charleston Firefighters Association President TJ Brennan
 
 
The Charleston Fire Department currently operates an aging frontline fleet of fire trucks that includes 19 companies, in 4 battalions. 16 of those companies are engine companies which are responsible primarily for water supply, fire attack, search and rescue and EMS operations, while 3 of the 19 companies are ladder companies and are responsible for placement of ladders, ventillation, search and rescue and techincal rescue including: vehicle extrication, high-angle rescue, etc. The CFD also operates a small and rapidly aging reserve fleet of fire trucks, which is made up of 4 engines and 1 ladder truck, in the event that one of the CFD's frontline trucks breaks down or is taken out of service for any reason, these reserve trucks are meant to fill in their role. These trucks have been placed in reserve status because they are too old and worn down to be able to operate them safely and reliably everyday. The average lifespan of a fire truck depending on mileage and wear & tear, is around 10-15 years as a frontline truck and another 5-10 years as a reserve truck. More than half of the trucks in the CFD's fleet both frontline and reserve are at the age where they meet the criteria to be considered reserve status or retired status.
 
Some of the fire trucks that are in service in the CFD (both frontline and reserve) are older than most of the firemen who ride on them and over the past two years the CFD's aging fleet of vehicles both frontline and reserve has really begun to create some significant problems for the department. On more than a few occasions the CFD has had so many frontline trucks break down that it's completely run out of reserve fire trucks and been forced to shut down companies, leaving portions of the city uncovered, sometimes for a few hours sometimes longer, until a fire truck can be repaired and put back in service. In many cases the fire trucks that the CFD mechanics have to work on are so old they can no longer order or stock parts from the manufacturer because they aren't made anymore, forcing the mechanics to have to fabricate parts to fit the fire trucks to get them back on the street.
 
In most cases, when the CFD runs out of fire trucks, neighboring departments will either relocate to that company's area or cover the CFD station's calls from their location. While this is helpful, it also creates problems because this then drains other communities of their resources, extends response times to both communities and stretches the remaining companies out thinner in both communities. 
 
The Charleston Firefighters Association has been becoming more and more vocal about this apparatus issue as the frequency of the CFD running out of fire trucks and having to 'Brown Out' companies has increased, as have the risks posed to the citizens of Charleston and our firefighters. The CFD's aging fleet of fire trucks is not only expensive and difficult to maintain, it's proving more and more unreliable everyday. These fire trucks are also dangerous to operate and ride on. Several of the reserve trucks are no longer NFPA compliant, many of the trucks are open cab, where the back of the fire truck is open and firefighters are exposed to the elements (which manufacturers stopped producing open cab fire trucks in the late 80s/early 90s) and have not been retrofitted with any safety system to reduce the risk of ejection in the event of a crash that would make those trucks NFPA compliant, most of the fire trucks in the CFD still do not have air conditioning and firefighters have also reported issues with the driving and safety systems of these apparatus including problems with seatbelts, steering and braking.
 
While we recognize the difficult economy and budget constraints of municipalities across the country including our own, we also recognize the need to adequately and responsibly plan and budget for apparatus acquisition and replacement. Afterall, a fire department without any fire trucks is of no use to anyone and while we are proud of our history and tradition here in Charleston and within the Charleston Fire Department, we definately don't want to bring bring back the days of the horse-drawn and fire engines or the bucket brigades.

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