By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
For the Transcript
Winthrop firefighters were placed in the unusual position of having to extinguish a fire in one of their own vehicles this past Sunday, when Winthrop Engine 2 caught fire due to heat buildup in the brake drums.
According to Fire Chief Paul Flanagan, the resulting explosion and fire did about $8,000 worth of damage to the townâ€™s 1996 Pierce pumper truck, which has been in service in Winthrop for about 14 years.
â€œThe truck was called out on two calls for service, first to an outside fire and then to an alarm at Dunkinâ€™ Donuts,â€ explained Flanagan. â€œDuring its response to those calls, the brakes on one of the rear dual tires failed and essentially remained engaged, and the brake drum heated up to a very high temperature.â€
Flanagan said during the response to the second call, one of the firefighters riding in the truck noticed a burning smell, and when it returned to the Pauline Street Station, the truck was backing into an outside parking space when one of the rear wheels exploded.
â€œIt was definitely heard throughout the town,â€ said the chief.
Firefighters quickly began extinguishing the fire, while also stripping all the equipment off the truck so it wouldnâ€™t be lost if the truck continued to burn.
â€œA close examination of the engine at Minuteman Truck in Walpole resulted in an estimate of about $8,000 in damage from the fire, but overall, the vehicle has been deemed to be very close to the end of its useful life,â€ said Flanagan. â€œThere is other damage – rust and deterioration – that they did recommend that we will need to find a way to replace the truck soon.â€
For the immediate future, Engine 2 is expected to be back in service in about two weeks, about the same time the town expects to get Engine 1 back in service.
â€œThis actually came at a difficult time, as we already had Engine 1 out for some body and frame work that had been recommended some time ago,â€ explained Flanagan.
He added Engine 1 was sent out last week because of a recall and warranty that Pierce had placed on the vehicle a year ago for body and frame rust. Engine 1 is currently being completely sanded, primed and repainted to protect it against rust.
In the absence of both of its main pumper trucks, the town is running a reserve engine, a 1987 Pierce pumper truck, and a spare engine it borrowed from the Revere Fire Department.
â€œIn all, we have five pieces of firefighting apparatus in the town, four of which have been purchased by the MWRA over the last 20 years, so we really havenâ€™t purchased a new fire truck in this town in a long time,â€ said Flanagan. â€œNow, we have to get together with the council and figure out a funding stream to be able to go out and purchase a replacement for Engine 2 sometime in the next year.â€
He estimates the purchase of a new â€œoff-the-rackâ€ pumper truck with no special outfitting will cost approximately $400,000.
However, he also dismissed rumors that the recently passed override will be used to repair or replace Engine 2.
â€œThey are completely separate items,â€ said Flanagan. â€œI have some money in the [current] fiscal 2009 budget for repairs, and that, along with insurance money that weâ€™ll get, will be enough to pay for the repairs.â€