City seeking grant for new ladder truck

The city is applying for an Assistance to Firefighters Grant through the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to replace Great Falls Fire Rescue’s 1996 Smeal 75′ Quint with a new 107′ aerial apparatus.

During their Feb. 16 meeting, City Commissioners will be asked to approve the application submittal.

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If the city were successful in their application for the $1.3 million grant, the city’s match would be $130,000. GFFR said the tentative grant award announcement is set for late September or early October.

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The city applied for the same grant last year to replace the aerial truck but was unsuccessful so they’re trying again this year, according to GFFR Chief Jeremy Jones.

For some budget perspective, the city is generating about $22 million in property taxes this budget year.

The public safety budget is $27.4 million, of which $25.1 million comes from the general fund. The fire department budget is $10.1 million and the police budget is $15 million.

GFFR’s 1996 ladder truck has had significant structural issues during its operational service time, some requiring transport back to the manufacturer in 2004 for frame and body strengthening, according to GFFR.

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“Unfortunately, this apparatus was not specified correctly for weight and service requirements prior to its purchase. Since 2004, this apparatus has seen limited use as a reserve aerial apparatus for the citizens of this community. This has been in part due to increased mechanical cost to operate and unreliability to stay in service,” according to GFFR.

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The National Fire Protection Association recommends the replacement of apparatus at 25 years and replacing the 1996 truck with a new 107-foot fully equipped ladder truck will improve GFFR’s capabilities, according to the GFFR staff report.

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If the city receives the grant, the city would pay about 10 cents on the dollar, according to GFFR, and spread over the truck’s service life of 25 years, would be about $5,200 annually.

Due to the 1996 truck’s “fragility and unreliability” it has been relegated to limited duty as a reserve truck since 2005, leaving GFFR with only one frontline aerial to respond to the more than 540 structures that exceed ground ladder capabilities with its 26 square mile response area.

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“Because the closest aerial apparatus potentially available for mutual aid are located in cities 90 to 100 miles
away, our need for this Quint is dire,” according to GFFR’s grant application.

There’s been many renovations and construction projects in the city, including high density, multi-story buildings, that exceed the 75-foot ladder truck’s capabilities, according to GFFR’s grant application.

The new aerial truck would also increase the department’s capability for low and high angle rescue and ice/river rescues.