New pumper to be in Sarnia by March to ease “critical” equipment problems

Deputy Fire Chief Dana Pitts

Deputy Fire Chief Dana Pitts

A solution to Sarnia Fire’s “critical” equipment problem is on the way.

Deputy Chief Dana Pitts says a new pumper truck should be in the city by March 21 to replace two backup trucks which were pulled off the road in December.

The trucks, a 1989 and 1992 model, were being used as reserve trucks as replacement to the more current trucks during repairs. The trucks were inspected in September and given the okay for use, but when one of the trucks went into the shop for a brake job, the mechanic noticed a dangerous amount of rusting of the frame. The mechanic told the department it was not safe to use.

The other truck was also inspected and it, too, was rusting and falling apart. Both trucks were taken out of service after a second inspection.

Deputy Fire Chief Dana Pitts, in a report to council, says removing the backup vehicles “creates a critical situation” adding if one of the frontline apparatus had an extended problem, there would be no backup. If the truck would be out of service for an extended period of time Pitts says the department would have to “call in a favour from a neighbouring community and borrowing a piece of apparatus in the interim. It could also mean closing a fire hall and diminishing the level of service.”

The department was given the okay Monday to buy a new truck at a cost of $451,000. The department is putting off the $400,000 refurbishment of an aerial truck to pay the bill. The new truck will be ready, says Pitts, no later than March 21.

While the department waits for the new equipment, staff and council are trying to figure out why the two trucks passed an inspection in September and then had to be pulled off the road three months later.

“It seems it was a flawed process in evaluating the condition of our vehicles,” says Councilor Mike Kelch. “When an independent consultant gives us a pass and then you put it up for a brake job and it is going to fail catastrophically? That should not happen,” he says. “If the failure was that obvious, even if we didn’t ask them to look at that part of the truck, they should have told us.”

City Manager Lloyd Fennell is trying to figure out what type of inspection was ordered. “We want to make sure they did the work they were supposed to,” he says.

Mayor Mike Bradley says if the inspectors were at fault, there could be legal action. “That’s what is being investigated.”

– Heather Wright