Investment

Escondido to invest more than $4 million to upgrade fire equipment

Escondido is investing more than $4 million to upgrade and modernize the vehicles and equipment used by the city’s fire department to battle structure and brush fires and respond to medical emergencies.

The City Council last week unanimously approved a series of contracts for the purchase of three fire engines, one brush rig, three ambulances and 15 cardiac monitoring devices that will be placed in fire trucks and ambulances.

The fire department has been unable to replace aging vehicles in its fleet for several years due to budget constraints, but last fall a budget surplus allowed the department to begin addressing its equipment needs, said Escondido Fire Chief Rick Vogt. While the purchases are a step in the right direction, he said, additional investment will be needed to bring the department’s fleet fully up to date.

The department currently has seven Type-1 fire engines, one for each of the city’s seven fire stations, said Vogt. Three additional engines are used as reserves, filling in when a front-line engine is undergoing maintenance or repairs, and they are also available for use in a major event, such as a wildfire or disaster.

Type-1 engines respond to nearly every type of call, from fires to car crashes to medical emergencies, Vogt said. “They absolutely are the workhorse of the fire department.”

Currently, two of the department’s Type-1 engines are 22 years old, beyond their recommended lifespans of 15-20 years. Two more engines are 18 years old. The older vehicles are less reliable, needing more frequent maintenance.

It’s especially urgent to order the new fire engines because they are custom-made and will take 18 to 20 months for delivery, Vogt said. Supply chain issues dogging much of the U.S. economy are among the factors for the long lead times.

According to a city staff report, the city will pay $2.4 million for the three engines, which will be purchased from Ohio-based Sutphen Corp. The city is allocating $1.7 million in surplus funds from last year’s budget as well as $950,000 from public facilities fees to pay for the new fire engines. The purchases of the new fire engines are the city’s first since 2013, Vogt said.

Josh Plichta, a spokesman for Sutphen, wrote in an email that the engines Escondido plans to buy will include water pumps, a 750-gallon water tank, a 25-gallon foam tank, 244 cubic feet of storage space for emergency equipment, and will measure 30 feet, 5 inches in length.

“We are a custom fire apparatus manufacturer, so each apparatus we manufacture is specifically and uniquely built to a department’s specifications,” Plichta said.

Among the improvements offered by the new models, Vogt said, is better maneuverability, enhanced navigation cameras and lighting, and special compartments to carry contaminated firefighting gear so crew members are better protected from hazardous chemicals.

Also on the department’s shopping list is a new brush rig — specifically designed for fighting wildfires — that will replace one of the city’s three existing brush rigs which is 29 years old, Vogt said. The city’s fleet also includes a brush rig on loan from the state of California. The purchase price of just under $400,000 will be covered by surplus budget funds.

Surplus budget funds will also be used for the bulk of the $786,000 purchase price for three new Medix ambulances, which will modernize the city’s current fleet of five front-line ambulances and four reserve vehicles.

Several of the city’s current ambulances are older than the typical life span of 5 to 7 years. The five front-line units are in service 7 days a week, 24 hours a day and are “heavily used,” Vogt said.

Escondido has operated ambulance service within city limits since 1978. The new vehicles will allow the city to replace its three oldest ambulances, Vogt said.

One improvement in the new models, he said, is an ultra-violet light system that can disinfect the patient compartment of the ambulances between uses.

The council also approved spending $306,000 for six cardiac monitors, along with additional supplies, up-front maintenance and data costs. The funds will be combined with approximately $345,000 in funds from a grant by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, which will cover the purchase of nine cardiac monitors, for a total of 15 new devices, enough to replace existing equipment in fire engines and ambulances.




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