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Durango fire department celebrates arrival of new engine

Two more engines and two four-wheel drive vehicles are on order
The Durango Fire Protection District held a push-in ceremony Monday at Station 1 in Bodo Industrial Park for a new Type-1 fire engine. The engine cost $700,000, weighs 54,000 pounds, and holds 1,000 gallons of water and 35 gallons of foam. (Shane Benjamin/Durango Herald)

About a dozen people, including men, women and children, pushed a 54,000-pound fire engine into a garage bay Monday as part of a traditional ceremony to mark the arrival of a major piece of new equipment.

The $700,000 engine is one of three purchased by the Durango Fire Protection District. The other two are expected to arrive in spring 2025.

“The way fire trucks are being delivered now, and the long delays to get them, we're just putting the first engine in service right now that we ordered in January 2022,” said DFPD Chief Randy Black.

For the most part, the new Type-1 engines are basic firefighting trucks that respond to in-town structure fires, Black said. The department’s other front-line engines are 13 to 14 years old, and it was time to update the fleet, he said.

All three trucks will be located at in-town stations, including one in Bodo Industrial Park, one at the downtown River City Hall station and the other at the 32nd Street station in north Durango.

Durango Fire Protection District Engineer Beau Reber describes the pumping functions and the storage capacity of the agency’s new fire engine, which went into service Monday. (Shane Benjamin/Durango Herald)
Durango Fire Protection District Engineer Beau Reber gets behind the wheel of the agency’s new fire engine before a push-in ceremony held Monday at Station 1 in Bodo Industrial Park. (Shane Benjamin/Durango Herald)

Some of the older trucks will be downgraded to secondary engines, and the newest truck that began service Monday will allow DFPD to divest itself of a 39-year-old truck, Black said.

The new fire engine that was put into service Monday is 10 feet tall and 32 feet long. It holds 1,000 gallons of water and 35 gallons of foam. It has enough seating for six firefighters, but typically it will go on calls with only three or four firefighters onboard, said Beau Reber, an engineer who drives the truck.

“It’s a big, heavy truck,” Reber said. “They actually handle pretty well for what they are. It’s relatively slow, contrary to what most people think. It’s definitely fun to drive.”

It is similar to the department’s other Type-1 engines, he said, but it is brand new.

“It feels like you just got a new car,” Reber said.

Unlike the department’s more dated engines, the new engines have a pump under the cab of the truck versus directly behind the cab. That configuration allows for 35% more storage on the truck for equipment, Black said.

The extra storage is a boon to an agency like the DFPD, which responds to a wide variety of calls, including structure fires, rope rescues, ice rescues and swift water rescues, he said.

Previously, firefighters had to swap out equipment based on the type of call they received, resulting in longer response times. With the extra storage on the truck, firefighters can go on any number of calls without having to swap out equipment, Black said.

The engine has about 1,300 feet of supply hose, in addition to several 200-foot hoses.

The engine also came with a traffic alerting system, which pings cellphones and navigation systems within a certain distance of the truck if it is running with lights and sirens to alert drivers that an emergency vehicle is approaching.

The fire department is still learning about the system and what potential it has for reaching cellphones and navigation systems. The fire department was given a free five-year subscription, after which DFPD can decide whether the system is worth continuing.

“It’s amazing technology to be included into a firetruck to have it automatically notifying navigation systems and phones that are in the area,” Black said.

The engine was built in Appleton, Wisconsin, by Pierce Manufacturing.

The inside of the cab of Durango Fire Protection District’s Type-1 engine. (Shane Benjamin/Durango Herald)

Black said the $700,000 price tag may seem steep, but other fire chiefs have been impressed with the cost. He said the cost of motors, steel and chassis have all increased dramatically in recent years.

About six years ago, the department purchased a $1.2 million ladder truck that didn’t go into service until about September 2021. That same truck has gone up in price about $100,000 per year, meaning it would cost about $1.8 million if DFPD purchased it today, Black said.

“Everything has gone up,” Black said. “It’s the same thing with ambulances and fire trucks. Prices have just gone through the roof. … It's not the taxpayers’ fault and it's not the fire department's fault.”

In addition to the three in-town fire engines, DFPD has ordered two four-wheel drive engines that are more suitable for firefighting in the northern part of the county near Purgatory Resort. At least one of those trucks will replace a 24-year-old engine as a front-line truck, Black said.

Monday’s push-in ceremony dates back to the 17th century when hand-drawn equipment had to be pushed into a fire station after every call, Black said. The same occurred in the 18th century when horse-drawn equipment had to be backed in by hand, he said.

Firefighters continued the tradition in the 19th century, even after the arrival of motorized fire apparatus to mark the purchase of new equipment.

“This is a long tradition of being able to do this,” Black said. “We just felt like it was important to celebrate the work that went into getting this truck, the community support for the truck and the work that it stands to gain for the community in the next 10-15 years while it’s a front-line truck.”

shane@durangoherald.com



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