City considers donation of retired fire engines to Vaughn Volunteer Fire

The city is considering donating fire engines to the Vaughn Volunteer Fire Department.

Jason McAllister, Vaugh VFD chief, told the city that his department had a critical need for a fire engine but the volunteer department didn’t the means of purchasing a new or used vehicle.

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The city decommissioned two 1990 Luverne fire engines in 2016 that were no longer capable of meeting the demands of an urban firefighting environment, Great Falls Fire Rescue Chief Steve Hester wrote in his staff report.

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Those engines should have been retired in 2010, he wrote. They were finally replaced when the city purchased two new engines.

One of the decommissioned engines is proposed to be donated for parts because the transmission is inoperative, Hester wrote, but the second engine is still operational and could serve the Vaughn VFD as a structure engine.

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In a letter to the city, McAllister wrote that their pumper engine failed a Department of Transportation inspection in December 2018, putting it permanently out of service since it couldn’t be repaired at a reasonale cost within their budget.

Vaughn VFD operates on an annual budget of $22,500, most of which is spent on fuel, maintenance, equipment and utilities to keep the station operational, McAllister wrote.

“We believe this donation would directly help both City of Great Falls citizens as well as Vaughn and many other community’s throughout the state as Vaughn Volunteer Fire Department is a member of the state mutual aid and will respond anywhere in Montana if requested,” McAllister wrote.

The small Vaughn VFD provides fire protection services to the Town of Vaughn and to homes and businesses on the city’s northern border.

Vaughn VFD’s jurisdiction adjoins the city and the departments have a mutual aid agreement that has been exercised on several occasions, Hester wrote, so the engine will continue to serve Great Falls from time to time.

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“Staff recognized that the best use for this retired fire apparatus would be to donate the vehicle to a community with a desperate need for a fire truck that has the pumping capacity to extinguish a structure fire,” Hester wrote. “The Vaughn VFD does not run near the calls for service that the city does so this older engine would serve their needs for years to come. Additionally, the engine used for parts, would help keep the serviceable engine available even longer. Most importantly, the city’s ability to donate these engines to one of our local communities will most certainly assist Vaughn VFD in protecting lives and lowering fire loss in their jurisdiction. This far outweighs any financial gain the city may or may not realize if we tried to sell these apparatus.”

Hester wrote that the city would have a difficult time selling the vehicles due to their aged condition. Staff researched options and found no other fire apparatus for sale of the same age and condition to compare, but estimated the value, if it could be sold, at about $1,500 for the parts vehicle and $3,000 for the operational engine.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the City Commission will consider the proposal and be asked to set a public hearing on the donation for March 19.