With Ridgefield’s fire trucks ‘not holding up well,’ town to partner with Danbury on maintenance

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox
Ridgefield Fire department at the scene of a garage fire Thursday, Aug. 8

Ridgefield Fire department at the scene of a garage fire Thursday, Aug. 8

Stephen Coulter

RIDGEFIELD — The town is working toward the purchase of a new brand of fire trucks, as well as establishing a shared maintenance facility for its fire trucks with the city of Danbury.

Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi said going forward, the town will only use Pierce fire trucks since he said “they’re more reliable” than the trucks the town currently owns — which “are not holding up well.”

“We have two fire trucks — Engine 1 and Engine 2. Engine 1 is in the center of town. Engine 2 is in Ridgebury and both trucks have certainly had their issues this year,” Marconi said.

The concern, he said, is with the amount of maintenance and reliability of the trucks, he said.

“For example, Engine 1 responded to a fire call, pulled into an access lane and it died. It couldn't be started. The brakes locked up. It couldn't be moved. It was blocking the driveway. Thank God there wasn't an emergency and there wasn't a fire. They got out of the truck and everything was OK,” he said. “But those are the types of circumstances that puts a tremendous amount of doubt into the men and women who drive those trucks and are responding to fires. They need reliability. So it's been a question of morale, to a certain extent, that our firemen and women are concerned about that.”

Additionally, both trucks had pump problems and Engine 1 recently got a new motor that cost $65,000, Marconi said.

He added the city of Danbury uses Pierce fire trucks “exclusively,” as well as the city of Bridgeport.

“Their expected life for their fire vehicles is 15 to 20 years. We have an expected life of 10 years. The Pierce fire truck is a heavier duty, better build, obviously longer lasting truck,” he said. “They're very reliable.”

The purchase of the two trucks are in the town’s capital budget for 2024 and 2025, but the town plans to accelerate that because of the “amount of repairs and downtime that we are experiencing,” Marconi said.

Ridgefield’s Board of Finance approved a fund balance transfer of about $1.8 million for the trucks.

Shared maintenance facility

As part of the shared maintenance agreement, the repair facility for the Ridgefield trucks would be at Kenosia Avenue, by the Danbury Municipal Airport.

“We would bring our trucks there. They would do oil changes, brakes, etcetera,” Marconi said. “Any parts that are used to repair our trucks, we'd get a bill for — just like it would be at our highway department. We do not have to hire the mechanics to do it now.”

The agreement would be the cost of one mechanic.

“Danbury would hire the additional mechanic,” Marconi said. “The contract would be a charge to the town of Ridgefield for the cost of that mechanic fully loaded for a year, and that's probably around $100,000 to $120,000.”

The mechanic who previously took care of all the repairs for the fire trucks in Ridgefield has retired. Marconi said the agreement would enable the town to go from five mechanics to four, through natural attrition.

He said when the trucks go to maintenance for repairs, or just routine maintenance, all the parts will be common to the Danbury trucks.

“So we're very interested and looking forward to this move and appreciate the willingness and cooperation from the city of Danbury,” he said. “It makes sense for all of us.”

He added the fire departments in Ridgefield and Danbury feel the agreement is “a win-win.”

“It makes sense to standardize equipment, to realize economy of scale,” Marconi added.

Ridgefield’s Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance have approved the purchase of the new fire trucks. The town will vote on Sept. 21 for the approval of an allocation of funds to purchase them. The shared maintenance facility agreement would most likely go into effect in July of 2023, Marconi said.