Published DateGILFORD — With the sudden loss to service of Engine 2 Thursday afternoon, and Engine 4 still being repaired, Fire Engineer Bill Akerley and Chief Steve Carrier confirmed yesterday that the town is without a front-line attack fire truck.
Akerley said Gilford is no longer responding to mutual aid fire calls from other communities and is, at least until one of the engines is fixed, relying on mutual aid to cover the town's basic firefighting needs.
"This has severely diminished our firefighting capabilities and this is the wrong time of the year to have that happen," Akerley said.
Carrier said the Engine 2 crew was returning from a call Thursday afternoon when the 2002 vehicle lost power. He said the driver was able to "limp it back to the station" but when crews went to respond to another call, it wouldn't go into gear.
He borrowed an engine from Laconia overnight, but said Laconia's shift supervisor called yesterday morning and said the city needed it back because they had to take one of their front-line attack engines out-of-service for repairs. The alternative back-up from the Tilton-Northfield Fire Department failed its pump test, said Carrier, and is also out of service.
He said a technician from Repair Services of New England came to the station yesterday, tested Engine 2 and determined a sensor failed in the electronic transmission. To get at the sensor, he said the bell housing must come out and RSNE can't do it at the fire station.
At noon yesterday, he said Rusty's Towing disengaged the drive-shaft and towed the truck to Glendale. He said the irony is that Rusty's was supposed to tow Engine 4 to Lakes Region Fire Apparatus in Tamworth for installation of its new pump yesterday.
Carrier said in the event of a fire call, the town will respond with both the tanker and the pumper. He said the pumper holds two firefighters and 500 gallons of water. The tanker will follow with a lone driver. He said the attack engines typically hold up to four firefighters and enough water to fight a fire — 1,500 gallons.
For Akerley there is no irony. "The point I want to make is not having Engine 4 means exactly what has happened today," he said.
He noted that Gilford the town will have spent 572.5 man-hours plus a new pump to fix a 27-year-old fire truck (Engine 4), and now it has to spend money to fix the 11-year-old Engine 2.
"This scenario is exactly what the Board of Fire Engineers were concerned with when we asked for a fire engine in 2011," he said. "We are caught without adequate coverage in the middle of winter when every other fire department is having the same mechanical problems because of the cold."
He said that if the town had stayed on the capital replacement program mapped out years ago it would not be in this situation. "If people had listened to the experts this never would have happened," he said.
Selectboard Vice Chair John O'Brien said when a few members of the Budget Committee first challenged the town's need for a fire engine in 2012 and recommended fixing Engine 4 to get a few more years out of it, he said the selectmen "bought into it" and recommended not buying the engine at the 2012 town meeting. Voters agreed with that position.
After researching the repairs to Engine 4, he said the selectmen realized it was not in the best financial interests of Gilford to fix it and they voted unanimously to support the special warrant article this summer to purchase a new engine. Needing a three-fifths majority, the special warrant article failed by 10 votes.
"The dumb part was wasting $70,000 on fixing it," said O'Brien who alluded to the dollar amount of labor and parts that will have gone into Engine 4 by the time it is repaired.
"Now we're fixing Engine 4 and Engine 2," he said.
"The savers in town talked the people of Gilford into taking a big gamble," he said. "We lost this week and I just hope we don't lose more."