By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
For the Transcript
Earlier this summer, just a few short weeks after town voters approved a landmark tax override, agreeing to spend more than $1 million extra to keep the town running smoothly, the Winthrop Fire Department got the bad news that both of its main pumper engines would be out of service for a few weeks.
Engine 2 was down because of a problem with the brakes on the 1996 Pierce Pumper, which caused a fire in the vehicle’s wheels and required a major brake overhaul to get the fire truck back on the road.
The town paid to repair Engine 2, but because of the nature of the problem with that truck, the costs were more in line with regular maintenance for a truck of its age.
Engine 1, meanwhile, was suffering from a bad rusting problem, believed at the time to be a result of Winthrop’s proximity to the ocean and the salt air. The 1998 Pierce Pumper truck looked like it would fall apart beneath the firefighters that were relying on the vehicle, day in and day out.
What a difference a few months can make.
According to Fire Chief Paul Flanagan, a little bit of research at Winthrop fire headquarters turned up an old recall notice on the Engine 1 truck, which the manufacturer had sent out many years before, because of “corrosion problems” with that year’s model.
“With a little bit of persistence, we were able to convince Pierce that they should stand behind the vehicle and make the repairs that our Engine 1 needed,” explained Flanagan.
Over three weeks after it went out of service, the vehicle was returned to town, looking practically brand new, and all free of charge.
“The company that did the work was Minuteman Trucks Inc. of Walpole – they are the authorized Pierce dealer in this area,” said Flanagan, of the nationally known fire truck brand manufactured in Appleton, Wisconsin. “They did a great job replacing all of the parts that were subject to corrosion problems, put in new wheels wells, new chrome, got rid of the rust, primed, painted and completely relettered the whole truck and gave it all new springs – everything – and then just sent the bill to Pierce.”
The total bill, according to Flanagan, was just over $27,000, but he noted that the almost 12-year-old truck is considered old by modern firefighting standards.
“According to the industry standards, or the advice of OSHA, fire trucks are supposed to have a useful life of about 10 years,” said Flanagan, added that the fire department usually gets much more usage from its apparatus. “Still, there was nothing mechanically done to either of these trucks, and they are both getting older,” he added.
Flanagan said realistically, he expects the older truck, Engine 2, should be able to last another 18 months to two years, and that if all goes well, the recent makeover for Engine 1 will give it another five years or so of useful life.
“The bottom line is that we will have to do something to make sure of the long-term future of both of these trucks eventually, and I will be putting a plan together to bring to the town,” said Flanagan. “However, for the time being, both trucks are running and are back in service.”