Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mayor defends fire truck’s condition

Needs to be replaced, but not urgently, he says


By ERIC AVISSAR
Express Staff Writer

Randy Hall

    Following Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe’s claims that the ladder fire truck shared between Sun Valley and Ketchum is obsolete in terms of insurance considerations, Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall defended the condition of the vehicle.
    “We would never operate a piece of equipment that isn’t safe,” Hall told the Mountain Express at the base camp north of Hailey for the Beaver Creek Fire burning west of the valley.
    Hall pointed to the strong rating that the Insurance Services Office has given the Ketchum Fire Department. According to the ISO’s Fire Suppression Rating Schedule, ratings are classified into 10 categories, with 1 being the highest level of protection, and 10 being the lowest. The Ketchum Fire Department’s current rating is a 3, its best to date.
    Both Hall and Fire Chief Mike Elle voiced their pride in Ketchum’s ISO rating because it allows the city’s taxpayers to more easily pay for insurance. Hall asserted that there is a major difference between a class 4 and 3 rating.
    “It’s probably between a $500,000 to $750,000 difference just in the difference between a 4 rating to a 3 rating,” Hall said.
    He also said that if the class 3 rating were ever in jeopardy, he would know it, and thus build the city’s capital improvement plan around those needs.
    Elle also defended the condition of the truck, saying it’s inspected every year and meets all the National Fire Protection Association requirements.
    While Hall acknowledged that the ladder truck needs to eventually be replaced, he also emphasized that he believes the current truck is still reliable.
    “It can last as long as we maintain it to the level to which it’s maintained,” he said. “The thing about our fire truck is that it doesn’t have many miles on it, and it’s been well kept.”
    Additionally, Hall said the Fire Department has a full-time certified master mechanic whose main priority is keeping all rigs safe for personnel to use.
    Elle agreed that the truck needs to be replaced, but said he’s still confident that the current truck is safe to operate.
    “It’s an older piece of equipment that is planned to be replaced,” he said. “The truck is fully in service in the city of Ketchum and our fire station. It meets all of the certification requirements and our staff fully understands that there’s a potential for mechanical issues because it’s an older piece of equipment.”
    Hall and Elle also said the Fire Department has more pressing needs, as stated in Ketchum’s capital improvement plan. Both stated that the need for new air packs for firefighters takes precedence over the truck.
Elle said that when it comes time to replace the truck, leasing a new vehicle could be a viable option given current interest rates. Sun Valley Councilwoman Michelle Griffith also advocated for taking on a 10-year lease at an Aug. 1 City Council meeting. At the meeting, Briscoe said: “I’ve had some alarming developments in regards to the Fire Department over the last six months. We have a ladder truck that is already over 25 years old. We’ve repaired it. However, there are still some hydraulic problems with that machine. As mayor, I hate to see our firemen go up that 100-foot ladder, collapse and fall into a burning building.”
While Hall was unhappy with the claims, he said he hopes the relationship between the two governments can soon improve. He said he’d like to keep politics out of fire fighting.
“To imply that we’re putting a piece of equipment out there that is not safe is irresponsible,” he said. “We need to work collaboratively. To that degree, we’ve hired a consultant to identify values we can review in full view of the public and the press, and we’ll put together a negotiating team to try and bring our cities and departments back together in a way that benefits the communities.”


Eric Avissar: eavissar@mtexpress.com




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