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 town’s 1996 Pierce pumper truck, which has been in service in Winthrop for about 14 years.
“The truck was called out on two calls for service, first to an outside fire and then to an alarm at Dunkin’ Donuts,” explained Flanagan. “During 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.”
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.
“It was definitely heard throughout the town,” said the chief.
Firefighters quickly began extinguishing the fire, while also stripping all the equipment off the truck so it wouldn’t be lost if the truck continued to burn.
“A 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,” said Flanagan. “There is other damage – rust and deterioration – that they did recommend that we will need to find a way to replace the truck soon.”
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.
“This 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,” 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.
“In 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 haven’t purchased a new fire truck in this town in a long time,” said Flanagan. “Now, 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.”
He estimates the purchase of a new “off-the-rack” 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.
“They are completely separate items,” said Flanagan. “I have some money in the [current] fiscal 2009 budget for repairs, and that, along with insurance money that we’ll get, will be enough to pay for the repairs.”