Astoria Fire chief Ted Ames gave a factual, if somewhat understated, presentation Monday to the city council on the condition of the city fire trucks. The small fleet of vehicles the town depends on for fire protection are getting "a little tired", said Ames.
A 1986 pumper truck has been taken out of service. The 1988 ladder truck is no longer taken out on medical emergency calls to hold down the wear in order to save it for fire emergencies. The 1999 pumper truck is the one taken out on all the calls these days but it has had its problems as well. Ames said that truck was built on a lighter frame and the department had to send it out for major repairs when the side compartments showed signs of parting company with the frame. Big steel bands are bolted across the truck to hold it together.
The latest pumper truck the city got through a FEMA grant in 2009 isn't as hearty has it should be to cope with hilly Astoria terrain. It was actually built to handle wildland fires. Mayor Van Dusan said, in short, the situation is not the result of failure by the fire department to take care of what they have. The fleet is just feeling it's age.
Councilor Russ Warr asked if it wouldn't make better sense to buy a vehicle equiped to handle medical emergencies alone to help preserve the fire trucks rather than sending a fire truck to handle medical calls. Ames said that might be true but the fact is communities the size of Astoria don't do that because there are not enough personnel to staff a first responder EMT vehicle and respond to a possible fire call at the same time. He said that the firemen, acting as EMT's on a medical emergency would have to clear that emergency and then go back to the station to drop off that vehicle and pick up a truck to respond to the fire costing valuable time at the fire scene.
The presentation to the city council Monday night was a follow-up to a visit the council made to the fire department recently to get a better picture of the issues Ames was talking about. The council took no action as the presentation was for information purposes but councilor Warr did bring up the possibility that the council might have to come to the citizens to ask for financial backing at some point.