The Portland Fire Department’s spare ladder truck, a 1994 vehicle, is the temporary replacement for Bramhall station’s Ladder 6. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — With 16,000 calls for service a year, the Bramhall Fire Station at 776 Congress St. is one of the busiest firehouses in the state.

Portland Fire Chief Keith Gautreau, left, lays out a recommendation to replace Ladder 6 at last week’s Finance Committee meeting as Finance Director Brendan O’Connell listens. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

Which is why Fire Chief Keith Gautreau is wary about the station relying on a 25-year-old ladder truck as a stop-gap until a replacement for Ladder 6, taken out of service last month, can be found.

Gautreau learned in late June from department mechanics that Ladder 6, an 18-year-old vehicle, was not going to pass inspection because its frame was rusted and deteriorated. It was subsequently taken out of commission.

The truck was purchased in 2001 and has responded to 25,000 emergencies , logging 82,600 miles and 13,800 hours of operation. The department’s spare ladder truck, a 1994 vehicle purchased in 2009, is being used as a replacement.

Gautreau said he hopes it will be a temporary situation.

Last week, he went to the City Council’s Finance Committee to propose purchasing a 2011 ladder truck from a fire department in Rockford, Illinois.

“Ladder 6, our busiest station, is using an antique and I am a little concerned about that,” he told councilors.

Gautreau said the Fire Department searched fire trucks available online and, after a site visit, felt the Illinois truck is the city’s best option.

“I believe this truck we located, right now is a really good solution,” Gautreau said.

The department offered $520,000, which the seller accepted. Gautreau said the vehicle was being sold because the lease held by the Illinois department had ended.

Purchasing the new truck, he said, is the most cost-effective and efficient way to get a suitable replacement for Ladder 6. Gautreau said he hopes the city could get another 13 years out of the Illinois truck.

Refurbishing the city’s ladder truck, which is being stored at the Department of Public Works facility on Canco Road, could cost upwards of $750,000 and extend the life of the vehicle for another 12 years, he said.

A built-to-order truck would have an expected life of 20 years, but cost as much as $1.4 million.

The turnaround with the Illinois ladder truck is also much faster, since refurbishing can take up to 10 months, while a new truck could take up to a year.  The used truck could be in Portland in a matter of weeks, he said.

The Finance Committee members didn’t have any issues with Gautreau’s recommendation.

“It seems to me, given what you have laid out, we need a truck as quickly as one can be brought to us and I would support that,” Councilor Nick Mavodones, the committee chairman, said.

With the three members of the committee on board, city Finance Director Brendan O’Connell will now crunch the numbers to see how to best pay for the used truck, an expenditure that was not anticipated in this fiscal year, which began July 1.

Gautreau said the Fire Department ideally needs five ladder trucks.

It had recently been operating with only two because Ladder 4 is being refurbished and won’t rejoin the fleet until mid-October, and Ladder 3 was being repaired. Ladder 3 is now back in service, but Gautreau said Ladder 1 is due for radiator work and will be sidelined.

The hope, Gautreau said, is to eventually get a new Ladder 6 and repurpose the 2011 vehicle as the department’s spare.

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