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Fire Department seeks emergency funds to replace deficient trucks

Aging trucks are nearly 40 years old

Operating with two aging, deficient firefighting vehicles that do not meet state or federal standards, the White Salmon Volunteer Fire Department is requesting emergency help from the county to purchase a new fire truck.

The department has made an emergency application to the Klickitat County Economic Development Authority in hopes of securing the necessary funding to purchase what is referred to as an "initial attack tanker."

The emergency appropriation request, which was received by the Klickitat County Economic Development Department on April 6, asks for $240,000 for the new firefighting rig.

The new attack tanker would replace two aging trucks: a 1966 International tanker, and a reserve pumper truck built in 1963.

"You can't send guys out with this type of equipment. It makes no sense," said Lance Stryker, president of the White Salmon Volunteer Fire Department. "But I just don't know where their (county officials') priorities are."

The city's primary firefighting vehicle was purchased new in 2002.

The new truck would have a 3,000 gallon water tank, in contrast to the department's 1966-era tanker, which carries only 1,800 gallons.

According to firefighting officials, the tank on the 1966 International is not lined, and rust often clogs the tanker's pipes -- as well as the pumping systems of the other fire vehicles it supplies.

"Also, it has no integral pumping system, so it operates on gravity flow. The water tank has insufficient baffles, so it is dangerous to drive and the air brakes are sensitive and have failed without warning," read an excerpt of the application packet that went to Klickitat County officials. "Its engine is difficult to start and cannot be relied upon routinely on fire calls. The tanker does not meet state or federal certification standards for firefighting equipment."

The reserve pumper is also reported to have serious deficiencies, including a poor turning radius as well as being difficult to drive.

The reserve truck's limitations were described this way in the application: "It has no power steering. Its standard brakes have been known to fade. It has a reverse 5-speed manual transmission that is nearly impossible to shift except for those who are seasoned heavy equipment operators. It has only a 500-gallon capacity tank, which is rusty and corroded. The turning radius is excessive and its engine is difficult to start and cannot be relied upon routinely."

Stryker said the department would like to get the county's OK to purchase the new truck "as soon as possible."

"It takes about six months to put one of these trucks together," Stryker explained. "The sooner we can get it done, the better we'll be."

The emergency request went first to the county Economy Development Department, and has been forwarded to the Klickitat County Board of Commissioners.

Stryker noted that the new truck would provide a 400-horsepower engine and would be able "to adequately navigate the local hilly terrain with a full load of water, power steering, power brakes, and an automatic transmission for ease of use so that all volunteer firefighters could drive it," he explained. "It has a 3,000 gallon stainless steel tank and is outfitted with a 1,250-gallon per minute pump."

Stryker added that a dependable fire truck boosts economic development in the community.

"Certainly to justify the investment of substantial funds in constructing a new building or in refurbishing an existing structure, a business, corporation, or association requires adequate fire protection," Stryker wrote in the application. "Without adequate fire protection, there is no fire insurance at a reasonable -- or at any -- cost, and therefore, no economic development. That is why the EDA is the appropriate public entity to fund the purchase of this fire equipment, and soon. The White Salmon Volunteer Fire Department respectfully requests that this application be given immediate and due consideration and that it be granted without undue delay."

Stryker said he did not believe county officials would reject the department's request.

"I just don't understand what could possibly be the problem," he said on Monday.

County officials could not be reached for comment by press time on Tuesday.


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