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Perham FD eyes $250,000 fire truck

An upgrade from a 1968 to a 2003--that's what the Perham Volunteer Fire Department wants to accomplish with a new, quarter-million dollar fire truck.

Delivering the pitch for a new rig at the April 29 city council meeting were Fire Chief Mark Schmidt and officer Jon Ebeling.

Not only did the firefighters show a "power point" presentation in their sales pitch--they also rolled the rig into the parking lot, and invited city council members to come out, examine the truck, and "kick the tires." The rig was driven to Perham all the way from South Dakota.

Even though the department has focused in on the 2003 rig as its favorite, the law requires that the truck must go out for competitive bids. The unit was a demonstration unit for the Crimson fire equipment company in South Dakota.

Advertising for bids was approved by the council at the meeting. Bids will be reviewed by the council at the June 8 meeting.

Combined with the new water tower that will be constructed this year, providing the city a boost in firefighting water supply, the truck may help the department move up from a five "ISO" rating to four. The better the rating, the better the insurance premium rates to Perham businesses and residents.

The estimated value of the truck is $250,000. It is equiped with a 1,000 gallon tank, and has pumping capacity of 1,500 gallons per minute. The six person cab of the truck is also attractive to the Perham department.

If the truck were ordered today, it would cost up to $410,000, according to the Perham firefighters. Chief Schmidt noted that Detroit Lakes firefighters recently spent $408,000 on a rig; and Fergus Falls $350,000.

The 41-year-old truck presently in the fleet is worth an estimated $5,000. The tank leaks and it is a manual transmission. The 1968 rig has a 500 gallon tank, with a pumping capacity of 1,000 gallons per minute. To top it off, the unit hasn't passed a truck certification in two years.

"Engine number six needs to be replaced; we just can't put it off any more," said Chief Schmidt at the council meeting.

The $250,000 truck includes the base price of $220,000, plus specialized equipment requested by the Perham department at about $30,000.

The rig comes with a number of options included in the price, including a deck water gun, ladder rack, tire chains, a generator and other specialized equipment totalling an estimated value of nearly $60,000.

The truck will also improve firefighting capabilities for much of the county, said Schmidt, as Perham is one of 17 departments in the area operating on a "mutual aid" arrangement.

Firefighters ran on 106 calls in 2008

It has been a busy year for the Perham Volunteer Fire Department--with firefighters answering more than 100 calls plus assisting with flood duty.

A review of 2008 was presented to the Perham City Council April 29.

Firefighters ran on a total of 106 calls in 2008. Already in 2009, there have been 34 calls.

Perhaps the most intense fire of last year was the blaze that destroyed a mobile home and four vehicles in Richville.

That fire occurred late in the year.

The Perham department trained extensively, and many departments in the area also participated in the drills. Drills in 2008 included:

---A dramatic, Columbine-style school shooting drill--which involved nearly every emergency worker or volunteer in the area.

---A simulated school bus crash, near the Perham elementary and middle schools.

---A seminar titled "The Art of Smoke Reading," which attracted firefighters from throughout the region.

---Three separate house burn drills.

Perham Fire Chief Mark Schmidt also presented an outline of grants awarded over the past several years.

In 2007, the department received $18,500 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was used to purchase a thermal imager device.

In 2008, $111,800 in FEMA money went to an air compressor and other equipment.

For 2009, Perham will be part of a county-wide grant of $1.2 million to upgrade the radio system. Departments also will contribute to the project, and Perham's share will be $19,000.