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All I want for Christmas is a new red fire truck

By Staff | Jan 3, 2010

Members of the Blue Earth Fire Department , Chris Mathews, Ashley Bleess and Ryan McGuire, stand near a recently purchased 1997 KME aerial ladder truck.

The Blue Earth Fire Department received their Christmas present early this year. And it didn’t come from Santa.

Several members of the department traveled to the Chicago area recently, and drove a 1997 KME aerial ladder truck back to Blue Earth.

The truck is nearly twice the size of the old ladder truck, which has been in disrepair ever since the fire at Kerry Foods. The new truck has a 102-foot aerial ladder, while the old 1978 Ford has a 50-foot ladder.

Fire Chief Terry Campbell calls the new piece of equipment a “million dollar truck.”

But, the actual cost of this truck was $310,000.

The department’s former vehicle, a 1978 Ford ladder truck.

When the department looked at a new version of this same vehicle, the cost was $980,000.

“Although it is 12 years old, it has low mileage and only 4,800 hours on it,” Campbellsays. “It looks and operates like a new truck.”

The city will pay for the truck out of a capital improvement equipment fund, according to City Administrator Kathy Bailey.

“The council looked at bonding or increasing the levy to pay for it,” Bailey says. “But I recommended using this fund, as that is what it was intended for, and the council agreed.”

The purchase pretty much liquidated the fund, Bailey adds. The fund had been created eight or nine years ago.

“With cuts to LGA, every city is looking to tap into any funds they can,” Bailey says.

When the fire department was first looking at a new truck, the city was trying to get a FEMA grant and a USDA loan to pay for it. The FEMA grant, which would have covered roughly half the cost of a new truck, did not come through. And, the city opted not to go the route of a USDA loan, which meant going into debt for a number of years.

“This is a good truck, the firemen are happy with it,” Bailey says. “And, we have it paid for.”

About six months ago Campbell found what might have been the bargain of the year – a similar, but older aerial ladder truck for only $150,000. However, the truck was sold before the Blue Earth council could act on it.

“Later I learned we should not purchase anything older than a 1997,” Campbell says. “Mainly because of the availability of parts for repairs and maintenance.”

Campbell says the new – to Blue Earth – aerial ladder truck takes a lot of training to learn to operate it.

“We will have six firemen take the training, and only they will be allowed to run it,” he says.

Bailey says the truck is the only one of its kind in the county, and could see use at larger fires.

“I think it will be here for many, many years,” she says. “And it will serve us well.”