PHOTO: One of Fort Payne's new fire engines at Station No. 1
By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor
FORT PAYNE, Ala. — The Fort Payne Fire Department and Chief Don Fischer have recently added two new fire engines to the department’s inventory. Due to the high cost of new fire engines, it is almost unheard of for a city and department the size of Fort Payne to be able to purchase two new trucks at the same time.
In 2007 the actual process of replacing their older fire engines began, but they were forced to put it on hold due to the steep downturn in the economy at that time and just maintain until times improved.
Then, in 2011, the former fire chief applied for a FEMA grant for a tanker truck. For those outside of the fire service, a fire department vehicle is simply a “truck,” but there is a big difference between a tanker truck and a pumper truck. A tanker’s primary purpose is to carry water to the fire when no other water source is available. A pumper, most commonly referred to as a “fire engine,” pumps and supplies the water, equipment, and manpower needed to extinguish fires.
“We didn’t get the tanker that we applied for in the grant, so we switched gears and applied for a fire engine in 2012,” said Chief Don Fischer.
Again, they were not successful in obtaining a grant for a pumper that year, but he continued to reapply in hopes of getting a grant.
“In the meantime, we had started putting back money to purchase a fire engine in the future,” he said. In 2014, Fischer renewed the grant application again for the third year.
In April 2015, it was clear to Fischer that although they had saved roughly $300,000 in order to build up their fire apparatus fleet, now they needed two engines but could only afford to buy one.
Fischer started the search for a new fire engine with four goals in mind: safety, reliability, cost, and reputation of the company building the fire engines.
“I had the answers to those questions and more when my specifications were ready for proposal to the Fort Payne City Council,” Fischer added.
As he was preparing the final presentation that night, his phone rang and he was informed that they had just received a $300,000 grant for a new fire engine.
Now, it was apparent they could now get two much needed trucks and, according to Fischer, “This would really move us forward for the future, and knowing we were not going to be in this position again any time soon, I made the recommendation, in light of the grant, for two new engines and the council agreed.”
It was a long 18 months, but now the project is complete, and when the last truck rolled into service, Fischer said he was “ready to start preparing for the next project to keep moving the fire department ahead.”
“We have realigned our fleet due to these new engines, and we surplused two older engines, a 1980 and a 1983, that were giving us mechanical problems.” said Chief Fischer.
“We did put the older ones to great use as the city’s street department took parts off of one to create a spray rig for spraying right-of-ways, which saved the city $5,000, and we donated the other engine to the public safety program at Fort Payne High School.” Fischer added.
Fischer found good uses for both of the outdated engines, and the hard work and diligence it took to see the process finalized provided the city with two new assets.
Chief Fischer said that the new engines do not belong to the Fort Payne Fire Department but to the citizens of Fort Payne.
“I hope they will serve the community well for many years to come,” said Fischer.