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Fire District 5 upgrading equipment

Purchase of two used fire rigs and the addition of a new combination unit next year will cost Jackson County Fire District 5 nearly $1 million, but it will get it much closer to fleet recommendations made in 2018 by a consulting firm.

The district will have fewer units, but the equipment would be better suited to the areas it covers.

A 2018 study by Specialty Fleet Consulting recommended immediate replacement, repair and retrofit of a significant portion of the district’s rolling stock due to age, wear and safety concerns. The district’s board of directors adopted the study recommendations into its business plan strategy in April 2018.

“It gets us really close to the recommendation,” said district fire Chief Charles Hanley. “We couldn’t follow all the recommendations. That would have been too costly to overhaul the entire fleet. We did a combination of things.”

A used engine and a used quint — a combination engine and ladder rig — have been purchased from the Yucca, Arizona, fire department at a cost of $50,000 each. They are currently undergoing maintenance in California. Both units will be used as reserves to replace current reserves deemed too expensive to maintain.

The District 5 board authorized $147,000 for the purchase and work. Cost to repair one of the old reserve engines had been estimated at over $30,000.

“We have had a lot of deferred maintenance for a lot of years. I think the new equipment is going to allow us to optimize services. In some cases, we had equipment that is too heavy to go down roads,” said board chair Vicki Purslow.

Next year a new quint will be acquired for $833,000 under a lease purchase agreement. It will replace three vehicles, an air unit, an engine and a light rescue rig. The equipment that was previously carried on those rigs will be carried on one.

The new quint will give the district greater aerial capabilities with a ladder that can extend to 75 feet. Currently the district has ladder capability of 24 feet, with mutual aid calls to other nearby fire departments supplying higher ladder service. More than 100 buildings in the district are at least three stories tall, including motels fronting Interstate 5. The longer ladders are needed for those buildings and to reach into housing developments with greater setbacks and taller roofs.

The new quint will be relatively small at 37 feet long to better meet the district’s needs, said Hanley. Most quints run 55 to 63 feet long. It will be powered to better handle elevation changes on Interstate 5 and maneuverable enough to work effectively in the district on all at-risk calls.

Equipment at the district’s at Neal Creek station south of Ashland has been upgraded. There’s a refurbished water tender and a new brush rig that is equipped with wilderness rescue equipment that was funded by a grant from 2Hawk Winery and Vineyard and includes litters, ropes, pulleys and extraction gear.

District fire crews have embraced the fleet changes and participated in the process with hands-on work and suggestions.

“It’s new for them to have a level of involvement. They’ve had more input and are doing some of the work themselves,” said Hanley. “Crews recently put heavy duty bumpers and winches on the fronts of three brush engines. Having the winches will help with rescue operations and self-rescues.”

In addition, crews have put more highly visible retro-reflective tape on vehicles to make them more visible at night. Having crews work on the side of I-5 at night is very dangerous, Hanley said.

The district previously had spent money to paint all rigs white. Now they will be left in the color they come in to make better use of tax dollars, said Purslow. Community members played a role in determining expenditures through the budget committee process, she said. In 2013, the district acquired two new Pierce engines for $820,000 under a 15-year lease purchase agreement to replace two 1980 engines.

Phoenix, Talent and rural areas throughout the south county, including up Dead Indian Memorial Road and I-5, are covered by the district.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

file photoJackson County Fire district 5 volunteer firefighter Dale Grimes Firefighters douses the 2nd floor of a vacant house that burned at the corner of North Church and Fifth streets in Phoenix.