By Tia Lynn Ivey
A new fire truck has been secured for Morgan County, but with the county’s aging fleet, more costly trucks may be needed sooner rather than later.
Morgan County is finally replacing the fire truck lost in a fatal car crash from last December, in which a woman was killed after colliding with a Morgan County Fire and Rescue truck en route to a call. In late August, the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved a $288,000 commercial four-door cab truck to replace it.
“I am happy to finally be getting a replacement,” said Morgan County Fire and Rescue Chief Jeff Stone, who noted the loss of the truck spread the fire department thin.
“We were left with 15 trucks for 16 stations, so we had to shuffle things around to make sure every area was covered,” said Stone. “During this time, we had several trucks go down for maintenance, too, leaving us with even less trucks to go around.”
Stone said the truck, being built by Pierce Manufacturing in Florida, should arrive sometime in the summer of 2020. The new truck has a life expectancy of 15 years.
“Sometimes, you can stretch it out to 20 years,” said Stone.
Stone lamented the county’s aging firetruck fleet, noting that at least eight engines will need to be replaced in the near future. According to Stone, back in 2003, the county purchased eight engines at once through a grant.
“Now those trucks are at the end of their lifespan,” said Stone, who also noted the county still has trucks from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. “We are seeing more and more maintenance costs because of this.”
According to Stone, during a three-year-period between 2016-2018, the county spent $41,000.
“But just so far for this calendar year, we’ve already spent about $20,000 in maintenance costs,” said Stone.
“We have a variety of challenges. Our fleet is getting old. We are starting to see more and more mechanical issues each year.”
It would cost the county $2.4 million to replace all eight of the aging out engines.
“The county just doesn’t have that kind of money,” said Stone. “But then you also have to think about that the cost of trucks increase three to five percent every year. So the longer you wait, the more expensive it will be.”
For now, the county has taken care of the one truck lost in an accident last year, restoring the fleet to ensure each station has a truck. But the county may be faced with multiple costly fire truck replacement needs in coming years.