Maintenance issues put strain on Hudson Fire Department’s vehicle fleet

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By Justin Roshak, Contributing Writer

A photo shows the Hudson fire department’s Engine 4 inside the department’s Cox St. fire station in 2017. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

HUDSON – Maintenance concerns and delays in both repairs and replacement part orders have left Hudson’s Fire Department fleet with little wiggle room and behind budget, Fire Chief Bryan Johannes told the Select Board earlier this month.

“We’ve been doing a lot of corrective maintenance… to get to the point where I could be more effective in a preventative maintenance program,” Johannes said during the Oct. 18 meeting.

The center of Johannes’ attention has been Hudson’s Engine 1, a 2006 E-One Typhoon “pumper” with about 85,000 miles on it. Inspections showed what Johannes called “significant damage” to a degree that preventative maintenance was put on hold and the engine taken out of service. 

Follow up examinations showed a slew of issues, such as an air tank that was so badly pitted that “it will fail at some point if it’s not replaced,” according to Johannes. 

“The frame rail has gotten to the point where the steel is actually delaminating, reducing the thickness of the frame rail itself,” Johannes said.

Chunks of rust large enough to hold in a hand have fallen from the engine frame. And an air intake has been crushed under a slowly-settling cab, putting the engine at risk of becoming “dusted.”

“It really could fail at any point if we continue to operate it,” Johannes said.

Engine 1 sat out of service at Greenwood Emergency Vehicles, an emergency vehicles dealer, as of Johannes’ presentation. Johannes was more than 50 percent through his vehicle maintenance budget, he told the Select Board. 

Other engines require maintenance

Engine 1 is not the only engine with issues, Johannes said.

Hudson’s newest engine, Engine 5, had its brakes freeze up several weeks ago. During servicing, issues were discovered with oil feeds. 

Labor shortages at that repair shop would delay Engine 5’s return to service, Johannes said on Oct. 18.

Meanwhile, Johannes had been waiting for “close to” three months for a sensor for the diesel exhaust system on Engine 4 which has remained drivable in spite of that pending repair. 

The maintenance issues make it more difficult for the Hudson Fire Department to provide mutual aid to neighboring communities, Johannes said. Johannes plans to hold back Hudson’s working engines for the foreseeable future, he said. 

Select Board, Fire Chief to continue maintenance discussion

Johannes discussed possible replacement of Engine 1 with Select Board members on Oct. 18.

Select Board Member Fred Lucy said he would support putting an Engine 1 replacement on the Town Meeting warrant for May, 2022. He later suggested the town could take advantage of low interest rates to replace two trucks at once.

The purchase of a new fire engine is eligible for funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), of which Hudson will have $5.9 million to work with, according to Executive Assistant Thomas Gregory.

In the meantime, though, this matter is back on the Select Board’s agenda for their Nov. 1 meeting.

A memo from Johannes filed with that agenda details a number of “key pieces of information” that “were unknown at the time of the last meeting with the Select Board.”

Greenwood has since provided additional information on a $30,005.53 quote for repairs to Engine 1 that Johannes received back in September, Johannes wrote.

“An additional quote will be provided to finalize other outstanding corrective maintenance issues with Engine 1 to ensure it is safe to drive,” he wrote. “It is my intent to proceed with the frame rail replacement with new galvanized frame rail liners.”

Johannes said he had “been ensured that parts are available to perform this work.”

He noted that, while this “may extend the life of Engine 1 by up to five years…there is no five-year guarantee so replacement planning should occur now.”

Johannes’ memo went on to, among other things, acknowledge supply chain issues and labor shortages that have led to delays in the delivery of new vehicles.

“It would be prudent to designate available funding now in an effort to help maintain Hudson Fire department fleet readiness,” he wrote. “Planning now for replacement will take into consideration any industry backlogs and keep Hudson from being in the position it now finds itself in.”

Read Johannes’ full memo

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