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In-Depth: Cleveland fire union raises safety concerns over aging fire trucks

In-Depth: CLE fire union raises safety concerns over aging fire trucks
In-Depth: CLE fire union raises safety concerns over aging fire trucks
Posted at 9:46 PM, Apr 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 23:18:06-04

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Fire Fighter's Association said it has safety concerns when it comes to the city's aging fleet of fire trucks.

Fire union President Francis Lally pointed to Cleveland's latest annual report on the fire department, which indicated 13 of the city's 42 fire trucks are listed in "poor condition," with eight of the trucks having more than 120,000 miles on them.

“I’m not only worried about the safety of our crews out on the streets, but for the citizens and the residents out there, because we have more and more people living downtown, we have more and more people living in high-rise buildings,” Lally said.

“It is a safety issue, some of these pumpers that are out there right now have failed their annual inspection. Which means they can’t pump at the pressures that are needed, say for high-rise fires.”

“By the city’s own metrics they’re in poor condition. It’s not just one, it’s not just two, it’s not just three that need to be replaced on an annual basis, it’s over a dozen.”

“They’ve exceeded their life expectancy and we need to do all we can to get these replaced.”

Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek said it's such an issue he's hoping the city will be able to use some of the $541 million in federal stimulus money it will soon receive to purchase several new trucks.

“If your equipment that you’re utilizing is in poor condition, or is breaking down you cannot provide the service," Polensek said.

“Fire trucks don’t come in one morning, you need to order them, it takes time to get that equipment.”

“The citizens need to know where our weak spots are, and if we’re not able to provide quality service, or we’re having problems, we need to get to the bottom of this as to why.”

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's office issued the following statement:

"Those figures were accurate as they reflected the state of the fleet at the beginning of the year, but they do not include the three new engines which have gone into service in 2021.

The numbers are also skewed by the broad terminology of “fire apparatuses” which does not differentiate between front line apparatus and spares.

The spares are generally older, higher mileage apparatus kept ready for short-term use while a front line apparatus is out of service. Also, every new fire engine replaces an old fire engine which can then be available as a spare.

The report also does not include the addition of two new Rescue Squads, purchased in the 2019 budget year.

For 2021, the Division anticipates receiving one new Engine Truck and one new Aerial Truck (Ladder). Acquisitions for 2022 are yet to be determined.

The Division is in the process of annually testing the pumps and ladders of all apparatus to ensure they are functional and safe for emergency responses."

Still, Lally believes more funding is needed and a more consistent fire truck replacement plan is needed to reduce potential breakdowns.

“There’s lives at stake, there’s property at stake, not to mention our fire fighters' lives are at stake as well.”

“We have to trust our equipment to do our job and the older these apparatus get, the more miles they get on them, the more beatings they take, the more hours they pump, they’re just going to fail.”