VOL Board Approves New $472K Fire Engine

by Judy Silberstein

(February 1, 2007) The Larchmont Fire Department's Engine 35, purchased in 1965, is getting a replacement. It's been a lengthy process, but Fire Chief Chris MacDonald told the Village Board that he was ready to recommend the purchase of a new engine from the American LaFrance Corporation, the same company that built Larchmont’s Engine One in 1922. There were three bids ranging from $472K to $519K, with almost identical features, and the American LaFrance bid was the lowest.

New Engine
Larchmont's new engine will resemble this one from New Rochelle.

The Village has been short an engine for some time while Village and Fire Department officials researched the options, drew up specifications and analyzed competing bids. Actually, the need for a replacement was first raised in 1996, said Deputy Chief Tom Broderick. "It kept getting pushed back, pushed back and pushed back."

Since then, the old engine, after more than 40 years of service, was deemed beyond repair. "It's gone to a happier place," joked the chief. It was sold and is being used to hose down the sidewalks at Hunts Point in the Bronx.

Engine 35
Engine 35 at a fire in the 1980's. Photo from former LFD Chief Don Keck

Meanwhile, Larchmont has had to call on neighboring departments to supply apparatus in numerous instances. Chief MacDonald and Deputy Chief Tom Broderick explained the situation could not go on indefinitely. In a mutual aid system, like the one Larchmont participates in, you have to "give aid to receive aid." There have been times "we've been so debilated we could not respond," said Chief MacDonald.

Furthermore, there has been additional stress on the existing apparatus, he said.

Larchmont’s new engine’s primary job will be to respond to automobile collisions, hazardous materials incidents, ice rescues and medical calls. It's numerous compartments will allow all the specialized equipment to remain on the truck, ready for use. Currently, gear is stowed in large plastic bins that have to be hauled on and off a truck, depending on the nature of the call. That wastes time and effort, said firefighter Steve Forest.

The new engine will be able to project foam onto an oily or flammable liquid fire, and support rescue equipment such as the “jaws of life” that can force open a crumpled car door to reach an accident victim inside. In addition, it will be able to pump water on a structural fire.

These are basic services, stressed Deputy Chief Broderick.

Asked if he supported the purchase, Trustee Mike Wiener, a past fire chief and current volunteer, gave an unqualified "yes."

"This lowers manpower requiements especially in rescue situations when we're concerned about life saving," he said. "This has been well-researched and well-vetted."

Was there consensus among the firefighters to purchase the new engine? "In the past there has been a lot of griping and second guessing," said Trustee Marlene Kolbert.

The largest, most diverse committee was involved in developing the specifications and selecting the final bidder, said Trustee Wiener.

In the end, the board voted unanimously to accept the American LaFrance bid. It will take approximately 18 months for the engine to be built and delivered.

The Village will pay for the engine by issuing a 15 year bond. The average home owner's share of the bond payments will come to approximately $24 per year, according to calculations from Village Treasuer Denis Brucciani.