GIFD preps new quint truck

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Grand Island Fire crews said the department's newest truck will offer faster response times and save tax payer dollars in the long term.

"This is huge, especially along the [Highway] 281 corridor," GIFD Capt. Todd Morgan said. "We now have a ladder on each end of town. With larger buildings that we're getting on this (north) end of town, like the apartment complexes, the mall- everything the way it's just blowing up out here- we can use this as an engine company or we can use this as a ladder company."

The $750,000 quint (or quintuple combination pumper), paid for with tax dollars and approved by city council as part of the 2015-2016 city budget, now gives the city a second ladder for major fires.

"You're going to be able to attack it from two sides now, if need be," Morgan added. "With the ladder truck over at Station 1 on Fonner Park Road and with this one, we can combine forces. That should help us immensely."

The quint can pump water, has its own tank, ground ladders, a 75-foot aerial ladder and a full hose to bring better protection for the city in a fire or medical emergency.

"It's going to allow us to reach taller buildings on this side of town quicker without having Ladder 1 come from Station 1 clear across town," GIFD firefighter/EMT Mike Becker said.

And it's expected to offer relief for your wallet.

"By adding this and having a second ladder truck in Grand Island, it's going to lower insurance rates because of the ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating that insurance companies use to gauge the city of Grand Island for the surveys that they use," Becker said. "For every one percent that your community increases, it should drop insurance rates by 10 percent."

It's too soon to tell what those numbers will look like.

Becker said every year, communities take part in a classification survey involving the ISO, which will talk to local fire chiefs. They'll go through the stations and the apparatus and make sure everything is up to the standards that it should be.

The new truck comes just a couple of weeks after the city council announced cuts to health insurance for spouses of city employees who qualify for a plan through their own employer, saving an estimated $720,000.

While the city faces a budget crisis- including potential layoffs- the fire crew says there will be enough staffing to operate the new quint.

"Three guys can handle this company just as we can with the other one," Morgan said. "It's just going to take a lot of training to get used to it. I'm not sure when they're going to hire, but we are short like two or three people yet. It's a little more challenging but we just deal with it. That's what we do- we deal with adversity all the time."

The quint replaces another engine in service since 1999.

"Normal fire engines- their service life is 15 years as a front line and then they go to a backup," GIFD firefighter/EMT Jared Stutzman said. "Engine 4 is getting to that point where it's 15 years old and we need to replace it and move it to a backup. So, if one or more rigs need service, we have two rigs that are going to be able to be used as backup."

Crews are still retrofitting the quint with gear and equipment, and are expected to get training on it from March 27 through 29 before it can be put in service.

"We're hoping for next week," Stutzman said.