The city’s “newest” ladder truck is already down for the count, and there’s no telling at this point for how long, according to fire chief Peter McMichael.
The truck in question is the 1994 Simon Duplex LTI ladder truck apparatus that was purchased from Westerly for $25,750 almost exactly two months ago in May.
At the time of its purchase by Warwick, the truck had just 18,811 miles on it despite being 25 years old, and was heralded by city councilmen and Mayor Joseph Solomon (who helped barter the negotiation for the truck) as a savvy, cost-effective stop-gap measure to become the replacement for Ladder 1 – a 1998 truck stationed at the department’s headquarters in Apponaug – which faced upwards of $125,000 in repairs to get back onto the road.
A similar ladder truck purchased new would have cost the city between $850,000 and $1 million – as was discussed at the time of the truck’s purchase.
McMichael confirmed on Tuesday that the 1994 truck was being looked at by mechanics to assess why it was “bogging down” while running, but couldn’t attribute it to something other than “a mechanical issue” at this point in time. Other sources have indicated that a piston within the engine had a catastrophic malfunction.
The ladder truck had to pass an inspection prior to being approved for purchase, which it passed. Mayor Solomon spoke about the issue during an interview on Wednesday.
“I don’t know what happened there,” he said. “I know that we have an outstanding piece – a 20,000-mile vehicle that encountered some type of mishap. They’re looking into it and it will be somehow repaired and restored into service.”
Solomon wouldn’t conjecture as to the cause of the engine malfunction outside of it being an “accident.”
“This was a great piece of apparatus, and what occurred hasn’t been known to occur in an engine with 20,000 miles. I guess accidents do happen and I’ll just let them deal with it. It’s not lost. We still saved the million dollars,” he said. “I can’t formulate any conclusion myself on this because I don’t possess the facts to do so. If there was something other than [an accident that contributed to the engine failing], I’m sure it would come to light.”
At the time of its purchase, McMichael said, “I’m under no misconception that this is a 10-year vehicle, but what I’m hoping to do is put this on the front for a couple years and find a new piece and then use it as a reserve.”
On Tuesday, he expressed his frustration at the situation.
“No one is more disappointed than I am,” McMichael said. “Hopefully it’s nothing too major. This is part of the problem when you buy something that is pre-owned.”
Fire Union Chief Michael Carreiro said he was thankful nobody was injured when the truck broke down. He said that the Warwick Fire Department had already put on between two and three thousand miles on the truck since it went into service in May. He wondered if the truck’s quick transition from low usage in Westerly and then going “from zero to one hundred” in Warwick contributed to the engine’s failure.