First Arriving Network
First Arriving Network

Fire Chief Wants to Replace Fire Engines With Pickup Trucks


Save Money and Fight Fires (or something like that)

THE CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN, HAS DIRECTED the Fire Chief Laura Knapp to cut spending 10% over the next three years.  So she has come up with a plan that the City Council loves to hear.  So much so that yesterday morning (Tuesday) they unanimously approved the plan and gave her the go-ahead to start implementing it.

The city has 11 fire stations and Knapp plans to replace the fire engines in three of them with "Quick Response Vehicles" (QRV's), described by the fire department as "basically a Dodge chassis with a box on the back" for a 300-gallon water tank and compressed-air foam system.

This GRFD drawing looks an awful lot like THIS ONE:

SGVN photo

The selling points for this conversion are first of all, replacement costs of $873,000 for all three units compared to a comparable price for one real fire engine. 

Secondly, the QRV's will only carry two firefighters instead of the three or four currently riding on the real fire engines.  This will allow the department to operate with 12 fewer firefighters, music to a councilman's ears.  Twelve is the magic number because the SAFER grant that the FD received to fund 12 positions runs out in three years and apparently the city does not have plans to retain those slots.

Chief Knapp projects a total savings of $21 million over the next 15 years once the plan goes into effect.

The Grand Rapids Press tells us:

Knapp hopes they will help the fire department maintain existing service levels in the face of coming staffing cuts.

About 89 percent of current fire-service calls are handled by a single unit, Knapp said. The "quick-response" units could handle those calls, she said.

"We need to better align our resources with these single-unit calls to ensure our performance is maintained (as we reduce firefighters to cut costs)," Knapp said. "Right now we don’t have a lot of flexibility in our deployment. The (‘quick-response vehicle’) is the answer for our current rigid operational system."

The firefighters themselves aren't convinced yet that fewer fire engines and fewer FF's will translate into "maintaining existing service levels."  William Smith, president of the Local tells the GR Press,  "If they’re rolled out, we’ll do what we’re told to do. There’s a question of how effective they’ll be."

WZZM-TV filed this brief video report:


Full report in the Grand Rapids Press HERE.
Local President Smith speaks more about their skepticism HERE.

Firegeezer notes:  These things became popular back in the great recession of the late 1970's.  Back then they were called "mini-pumpers" and were introduced with the same promises we're hearing from Grand Rapids.  Several dozens of fire departments jumped into the concept, but within three years they were all back to Plan A.  Why do people think it will magically start working now?  Or is this just a gimmick to get the budgeteers to turn their focus onto another agency?

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