In most major cities, fire trucks are replaced after about ten years or so of service. This is not the case in our fair city. Ryan Kowalski, Union of Professional Firefighters Local 47 president and city fireman at Ladder Company 70, revealed in a press conference yesterday that some of our fire engines are over twenty years old.
“Take my firehouse,” Kowalski told reporters. “The ladder truck that I ride on was built in 1987, she is the oldest in the fleet. She is old enough to drink. Our housemates on Engine 20 have it a bit better, their rig was built in 1991, but it was purchased used. These trucks are old and the city won’t maintain them properly. How can my firehouse serve the good people of Fort Ridge with substandard equipment? Mayor Wilders seems to care about his legacy instead of not only the safety of the men and women who voted for him, but also those who come to help them.”
Kowalski’s statistics revealed that out of the fleet of 350 fire trucks, there are 42 fire trucks over ten years old, with 20 being older than fifteen years. A map distributed by the union displayed fire truck age distribution by firehouse location, revealing that the downtown and more affluent residential areas have newer equipment than more industrial and less affluent areas of the city.
Mayor Wilders was in meetings yesterday with the governor and could not be reached for comment. Deputy press secretary Nadine Johnson issued an e-mail statement to channel 6, saying only, “The mayor is serious about safety.”
Fire Commissioner Gordon “Chick” Hall told channel 8, “I don’t have a vendetta against Kowalski and it is just a coincidence that he is in the oldest truck in the fleet.” He also noted, “Some of these are reserve units and our fleet operations division is top notch.” When asked about the idea of selling ad space on the trucks again he responded, “We aren’t that desperate.”
City Council President Otis Stevenson promised, “The city council will hold hearings and form a special committee to look into the matter.”
– Hoyt Schermerhorn
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