WESTFIELD - The Rescue 291 vehicle doesn't roll on most village of Westfield Volunteer Fire Department calls, but is vital for certain emergencies.
The truck carries both water rescue equipment and the Hurst tool used for extracting motorists from wrecks. But, 29 years after joining the department's fleet, questions were asked about the unit's mechanical reliability during a recent Board of Fire Commissioners meeting in Eason Hall.
Dave Davies, assistant fire chief, told commissioners Rescue 291 has had a series of mechanical problems and most recently stopped moving on Clinton Street, refusing to move in drive or reverse for what Davies estimated was five or six minutes.
Rescue 291 carries both water rescue equipment and the Hurst tool used for extracting motorists from wrecks. But, 29 years after joining the department’s fleet, questions were asked about the unit’s mechanical reliability.
P-J photo by Dave O’Connor
"It's a tired truck," commission chairman Barry Underwood said.
"Do we have a truck that we need to get out of service?" Mike VandeVelde, Westfield mayor, asked. "Guessing should not be involved."
Rescue 291 is not an ambulance, and Underwood estimated the unit is called out perhaps 30 times a year. However, it has a primary role in serious highway accidents and the department's water rescue alarms.
Asked for a comment, Davies said the rescue truck is a very necessary part of the department's capability.
"We need it for our water rescue and Thruway calls especially," he said.
Commissioner Scott Mason said he believes replacing the vehicle is a "no brainer" because of its age and increasing repair bills.
Davies said the department had recently traveled to suburban Pittsburgh, Pa., to look over a slightly newer unit listed for sale at more than $80,000.
Refurbishing the truck was also discussed. Longtime member Ed Kneer said he felt the carburetor system might be at least part of the problem. Providing the fuel-air mixture to the engine by carburetion has been replaced by fuel injection for several years, Kneer noted. This, he said, makes it difficult to find competent carburetor mechanics and replacement parts, but nonetheless, both are available in this area, according to Kneer.
If the department feels a replacement is the best solution, the Westfield Village Board, and not the fire commission, will have to approve it because of the cost, VandeVelde said near the end of the discussion.