NLV fire dept. struggles with aging fire trucks - 8 News NOW

NLV fire dept. struggles with aging fire trucks

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NORTH LAS VEGAS -- The city of North Las Vegas is using fire engines considered past their prime. Some have been on the road for so long, they're now even beyond national standards for replacement.

City leaders say they're being careful with money, but the firefighter's union calls it unacceptable. The city hasn't purchased a new fire engine in five years because of the poor economy which has resulted in a constant juggling act to repair and maintain trucks.

When you call for help -- chances are -- you probably don't think how those first responders get to you. In North Las Vegas, most likely, they're getting to you in a rig that's passed it's prime.

"Right now, we have several of our apparatus that truly need to be replaced, right now," said Jeff Lytle,  North Las Vegas Fire Department chief. 

He says the economic downturn that ravaged North Las Vegas put the purchase of new rigs on hold which meant aging trucks that should have been replaced remained in service.

"That thing being on the street, stopping and starting, and rolling there's obviously all sorts of things that could go wrong with brakes and other mechanical issues," Lytle said.

National standards call for front line vehicles to be replaced every 10 years or 100,000 miles. At the top of replacement list is Engine 50 which is a 12-year-old Pierce quantum truck with 160,000 miles. It's considered a crucial front line emergency vehicle for the city's fire response. Not so surprising, it's been off the streets and in the shop for a week-and-a-half. Engine 50 has cost the city more than $40,000 in maintenance over the past two years.

"If that front line vehicle for some reason goes out of service for maintenance or some type of problem, it would put us into a vehicle that is 18 years old, and the one after that is 19 years old, and the one after that is 22 years old," Lytle said.

Like most fire departments, North Las Vegas holds onto it's rigs as reserve units, but even those are too old by the city's own standards at 20 years. Engine 253, for example, is a 22-year-old fire engine. Engine 215 is 18 years old. Out of the seven engines the fire department says need to be replaced, the city has spent a collective quarter of a million dollars on maintenance.

"On the back end, quantifying the dollar amounts we are spending to maintain those, and having to use the reserve engines that are 20 to 25 years old as a front line apparatus is just unacceptable," said Jeff Hurley, union president, North Las Vegas firefighters.

He says replacing the aging trucks comes down to public safety and political might.

"We have to get the priorities straight within the city and we have to start replacing these front line apparatus for the firefighters and for the citizens," Hurley said.

He adds there is money to replace some of the aging rigs. A two decades old account has more than $10 million for the sole purpose of maintaining streets, parks and the fire department, but the money was not used.

"We wanted to ensure the city was taken care of," Lytle said. "The city is being very financially prudent, on all ends and so at that point, the fire department, we felt that our apparatus could keep functioning and we could take those extra years of service life." 

 Last month, the city council approved around $500,000 to replace Engine 50. The chief says it'll take about six months to build. 


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