City's fire truck and ambulance fleet is showing its age

Age and wear and tear have not been kind to the vehicles in the Miles City Fire and Rescue department.

“The budget is always a concern,” Fire Chief Gary Warren said. “Our vehicles are wearing out and we just don’t have the funds to replace them.”

Mayor John Hollowell said the city is aware of and concerned about the problem.

Warren has put together a plan to upgrade the fleet but there is not enough money in the budget.

With the ambulances being of highest concern, Warren explained the problems.

The 1993 ambulance is out-of-service and is the only four-wheel drive ambulance the department has.

The 1997 ambulance needs extensive repairs and has a hole in the floor.

The 2004 ambulance got a new motor about a year ago and is always requiring repairs. It has logged more than 200,000 miles.

The 2011 ambulance is the newest and is “in pretty good shape,” Warren said.  But, because they rely on it so much, it gets a lot of wear.

Last year the department answered 1,063 ambulance calls.  With that number of calls it would be ideal to have three reliable ambulances and at least one of them a four-wheel drive, Warren said.

For fire trucks, the department owns:

— a 2000 pumper which is in the repair shop with front-end problems and getting new tires.

— a 1990 pumper engine is held in reserve.

— a 1993 ladder truck is “in pretty good shape” needing only minor repairs, Warren said.

The water tender built in 1983 needs “quite a bit of repair,” Warren said. Its water tank leaks and there’s not enough metal to weld, Warren said, describing it as “a patch on a patch.”

— a 2001 brush truck that is used to fight wildland fires is out for extensive repairs on the front suspension and the steering.

— a 2007 rescue truck and a 2004 Ford Explorer are in good shape.

— a 1995 pickup is used for general purposes and needs “quite a bit of repair.”

“Unless revenues drastically change, it’ll be the same and we’ll have to make due with what we have,” Warren said.

Fire and Rescue Lt. Erick Hartse said in 2015 all the fire apparatus failed the pump pressure tests through the National Fire Protection Association, due to lack of maintenance and parts. 

In 2016 repairs enabled three out of four apparatus to pass the pump tests.

Meanwhile the department is constantly upgrading its training to provide a higher level of service.

The local Insurance Service Office rating has recently dropped to a four with one being the best.

For a community this size it is good to have a three or four, Warren said, noting he is hoping to get to a three or two.