Like many cities in the United States, our fire apparatus are aging, and we are having difficulty replacing these rigs. This is the result of two factors. First, they are incredibly expensive. An engine costs $350,000 at the low end, and a half million is rather common. A ladder truck is well north of $750,000. Second, municipal governments all over the U.S. are clawing their way out of the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression. The City of Lincoln has already lost 10% of its civilian workforce, and recently we got hit with the news that we have a growing shortfall in the police/fire pension fund which needs to be addressed by a huge annual infusion of cash. There are a lot of needs out there competing for the City's tax revenue, and not a whole lot of enthusiasm for tax increases among our citizens these days.
As a result, I believe we have to look for the most efficient ways of operating. I'd like to get our fleet of fire apparatus into better shape and get on a regular replacement program, similar to what we've done at the police department, and with our ambulances. This can't happen overnight, but that's the goal we are shooting for. We've got one new engine on order, we hope to order a second later this year if revenue holds up, and in 2016 we have lease payments ending on seven engines acquired in 2006. We'd like to re-channel those payments into more apparatus replacement. If all goes well, this will be a tremendous improvement.
As we work on this process, part of management's desire is to reduce some of the wear-and-tear on the big rigs. Last year, we extinguished 502 actual fires. There are 18 front line fire apparatus staffed around the clock. We responded to 16,720 medical emergencies, and we staff 6 front line medic units. You can do your own math. Many of those fires are minor, but some present immense threat. You've got to be prepared to handle these critical incidents, despite the low frequency. But you also have to acknowledge the reality of what you actually do on a daily basis. Overall, about 80% of our workload is medical emergencies. I'd like to think that we could have used something smaller for a good share of those medical emergencies, and that doing so might reduce operating costs somewhat, and extend the life of the engines and ladder trucks.
This is nothing new. Departments across the country are doing this, some for a long time. I wouldn't say it's commonplace, but neither is it a novelty. I don't think firefighters like these smaller vehicles as much as engines and trucks, for the most part. I can understand why. I suppose many police officers would like to have the big block V-8s back, too, rather than a six-cylinder Impala or Taurus. Nonetheless, I think you've got to consider alternatives, and that doing so increases the confidence in citizens and elected officials that you are willing try things and open to other ways of doing business. This, in turn, makes them more likely to listen to you when you describe your needs.
Last year, our inspection of Truck 8 revealed that it's ladder was out of specifications. The thickness of the aluminum had worn below tolerances. We removed this assembly, loaded it on a semi, and shipped it to the manufacturer in Ocala, Florida for repair. The out-of-spec section was replaced, and composite wear pads were installed to prevent the same problem from reoccurring. The fix cost $60,000, and the shipping was $8,000. Chief of the Logistics Division Kendall Warnock tells me that the primary source of the wear was simple vibration: as the ladder truck was driven, the sections of the ladder moved against one another slightly, wearing away the metal over time: hence, the installation of wear pads as a preventative measure.
This example is one of the reasons those of us in management are interested in reducing the driving of the big apparatus to many medical emergencies. Trucks and engines are expensive to buy, and costly to maintain. We could buy and equip an ARV for less than the cost of that repair to Truck 8's ladder. That ARV ought to last somewhere in the seven to ten year range. My sense is that we might be able to make good use of a few such vehicles, but time will tell.
We may disagree on the best path, but ultimately labor and management want the same thing: good personnel, good training, good equipment and facilities; adequate to safely perform the job at hand, and in the quantity that our citizens are willing to support with their tax dollars.