SWAMPSCOTT — The town could be taking its “Big Blue” pride to another level, as the fire department is considering purchasing a blue fire engine.
Town Meeting approved $645,000 for a new fire engine last May, and the selection process for the new pumper truck began months later. A selection committee was put together to review options for different apparatus.
The town is definitely getting a new fire engine, which would retire 21-year-old Engine 22, and replace 10-year-old frontline piece Engine 21, but still up for debate among the Truck Selection Committee is what color the truck will be.
Fire Capt. Graham Archer told the Board of Selectmen last week that he’s in favor of going blue for the truck, but Swampscott Fire Chief Kevin Breen said he’s still not sold. The decision will be made at a pre-construction conference next month.
“There were members of the apparatus (selection) committee that thought perhaps a blue truck signifying Big Blue would be a good idea,” Breen said. “I’m very much a traditionalist with keeping the red … (But) I’m keeping an open mind.”
Engine 21 would become a reserve piece and Engine 22 would be surplused, according to Breen.
Breen said there are other communities in different parts of the country that have different colors for fire apparatus. Locally, he said there’s variations on Swampscott’s current red and white scheme. For instance, Salem has black and red for its trucks.
When the idea was presented to the selectmen, Peter Spellios, the board’s chairman, joked that he liked the thought “best when there’s mutual aid calls and we’re in someone else’s town and Marblehead has to have a blue fire truck.”
But of more importance, Breen said, is replacing an outdated piece of apparatus. The manufacturer the town chose for the new fire engine is Seagrave Fire Apparatus.
Breen said the company stood out because of its track record with reliability and overall quality of their products. But the deciding factor was Seagrave specializes in making stainless steel apparatuses. Corrosion has been an issue for the fire department in the past, because Swampscott is a coastal community and its existing apparatuses are aluminum bodies. Therefore, a stainless steel body and cab became a priority.
Other manufacturers — the other three finalists were Toyne Inc., Ferrara Fire Apparatus and KME Fire Apparatus — were only offering a stainless steel aluminium blend, Breen said.
The new fire engine through Seagrave is under budget, Breen said, coming in at a cost of $638,582. The construction of the truck is expected to take 280 days, and the town should have its new engine next July.
With the purchase, the fire department will keep its equipment level at three pieces of apparatus, with two engines, or pumper trucks, and one ladder truck.
“We’re very excited about it,” Breen said. “This is an important purchase for the department. It keeps us on our traditional track of apparatus replacement. Historically, we’ve tried to replace our engines or frontline pieces right around 20 years because we’ve found that after they pass 20 years, they start to break down more often and are a lot less reliable.”
Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said the new engine will allow firefighters to get to emergencies faster.
“Having apparatus that is specifically designed to ensure we have the right features and designs for safety is critically important,” Fitzgerald said. “I think the Truck Selection Committee … has done a terrific job identifying features and components of this apparatus that will help ensure they have a vehicle over the next 20 years to provide dependable and quality service.”
The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved authorizing Fitzgerald to finalize the fire engine purchase.