When it comes to safety from the danger of fire, the citizens of Hope Mills can breathe a little easier these days.
The town will soon replace a pair of fire trucks that have been in service a total of nearly 50 years. Two state-of-the-art vehicles built from the ground up by the Rosenbauer Group will take their place.
Rosenbauer, which is based in Austria, is one of three manufacturers of fire-fighting vehicles worldwide.
“They’ve been here for about 16 or 17 years,’’ said Hope Mills fire Chief Chuck Hodges of Rosenbauer. “We went with Rosenbauer because we’ve had real good service with the previous trucks we’ve had. I think it will do a good job for the town.’’
The two new trucks are priced at $499,000 each, Hodges said. They were built from the tires up to specific instructions provided by the town. It took about a year to build each one.
Both of these trucks are pumper tankers, Hodges said. “Basically, a tanker is like a mobile hydrant system,’’ Hodges aid. “There are some areas we respond to that don’t have hydrants. That extra water is helpful.’’
Each truck is also equipped with what Hodges called a jet dump operation. That means if they get to a fire scene where even more water is needed than the truck carries, they can offload the water in the truck in what amounts to a portable swimming pool and then go get water from another nearby source like a pond.
“The water in the pool can be drafted while they get more water,’’ he said.
The minimum crew to staff a pumper is three firefighters, Hodges said, but the truck can accommodate a crew of up to six.
Hodges said his firemen are currently preparing to put the new trucks into action as they transfer existing firefighting equipment from the old trucks.
The only new equipment that came with the trucks is the radios.
Items being moved from the old trucks include hoses, nozzles, axes and pike poles, Hodges said.
The oldest of the two trucks being mustered out of service was a 1986 model. The other is a 1998.
While the yardstick for determining when to retire most vehicles is mileage, Hodges said that’s not a good indicator of age on a fire truck.
Hodges said the typical lifespan of a fire truck in a moderately busy fire department is 15 to 20 years.
“When you’re dealing with fire apparatus, it’s not the miles, it’s the pump hours,’’ he said. That means when the truck travels to a fire scene, it may only go a few miles on the odometer. But the real wear and tear on the engine occurs at the scene of a fire when you calculate how long the motor had to run to power the firefighting machinery aboard when the truck doesn’t move an inch.
“You pump six hours, that’s still wear and tear on the engine,’’ Hodges said. “Anything mechanical, over time, just starts to wear out, and it costs money to repair.’’
He thinks the townspeople of Hope Mills should be pleased once the new trucks are fully operational, most likely before the end of February.
“It’s something we shouldn’t have any issues with,’’ Hodges said.