By JOHN HOWELL Warwick rescue was transporting a patient - according to reports, a 4-day-old baby who was having difficulty breathing - to Providence last weekend when the vehicle started shaking. They were on Interstate 95. They knew they had to get to
Warwick rescue was transporting a patient – according to reports, a 4-day-old baby who was having difficulty breathing – to Providence last weekend when the vehicle started shaking.
They were on Interstate 95. They knew they had to get to the hospital, but they feared the rescue wouldn’t make it.
Fire Chief Peter McMichael said Tuesday the crew kept going and the rescue and the patient made it to the hospital. The truck, a 2015 vehicle, is now in the Department of Public Works garage.
Under mutual aid, the city has been borrowing rescues from Cranston when needed and when available.
What has Mayor Frank Picozzi concerned is that only one of the city’s four rescues has fewer than 150,000. The fifth rescue – that’s the one undergoing repairs – will be used as a reserve when it’s back on the road.
Unlike cars, rescue trucks aren’t waiting on lots to be bought. On average, the process of developing the specifications for a rescue, putting it out to bid, awarding a bid and then having the truck built can take upwards of 18 months.
Mayor Frank Picozzi said Tuesday morning the city can’t wait that long. The city needs dependable rescues, and the sooner the better.
On Tuesday, under emergency provisions of the charter, he was prepared to sign purchase orders for two new rescues that McMichael learned were available from a dealer in North Attleboro. The rescues are Dodges with Cummings engines and software compatible with what the department has, the mayor said. They should be ready for delivery in early June.
On Wednesday, Picozzi said the city talked with the vendor and they were agreeable to holding the two rescues until Monday. From the outset, Picozzi kept City Council President Steve McAllister abreast of developments, and with the added time to act, McAllister has called for a special City Council meeting this Friday at 5 p.m. to consider purchase of the vehicles.
“We’re in a dire situation right now,” McAllister said. He said he polled the council and they all available to attend. The meeting would open with a Finance Committee meeting with an opportunity for public comment.
Picozzi said he relied on James VanGyzen’s assessment of the rescue fleet to make his decision. The mayor said he has known VanGyzen for years. As a DPW mechanic, VanGyzen has worked on the rescues for years and told Picozzi the city could be facing problems if it didn’t act soon.
“This is not the normal Fire Department wanting toys,” the mayor said.
McMichael brought home the fact that the city needed to act quickly or it could lose the two rescues.
“[Rescues] are getting scooped up quickly,” the chief said. He speculated a combination of factors has resulted in a demand for rescue and fire apparatus. With the pandemic, firefighters have responded to increased calls, placing more wear and tear on vehicles. Federal funds have become available to purchase emergency vehicles, although that isn’t the case with Warwick. And finally, as the mayor surmised, vehicle production probably slowed down with the pandemic.
Picozzi is planning to acquire the rescues under a lease-purchase agreement with the first of those payments being made in next year’s budget. He said the rescues have more bells and whistles than had the city had them custom-made, but the city is prepared to pay the premium. He said the rescues would cost $299,000 each. They will carry warrantees.
Rescues aren’t the only vehicles coming to an end of their useful lives.
On McMichael’s wish list are two pumpers and an engine. The department bought a used pumper in Massachusetts as a reserve. However, it was soon pressed into front line service, as other pumpers needed repairs.
Picozzi said the identical issue is faced by the Sanitation Department with an aging fleet of sanitation and recycling trucks. In other to complete pickups, one truck is sometimes used to do a couple of routes, which runs into the evening hours.
At one time, the city had a schedule of replacing fleets – that continues to be the case with the Police Department – but former Mayor Joseph J. Solomon sidelined replacements so as to lessen the bite on the taxpayer, especially during the pandemic.
“We need to look at it short term and long term,” said McMichael, who favors an apparatus replacement program.
“They key is to adhere to the schedule,” he said.
He said the good news is that Picozzi recognizes that this can’t wait.