The Scarborough Fire Department has a new fire truck. Courtesy photo

Earlier this week the Scarborough Fire Department took delivery of their newest fire truck, a 2021 Pierce pumper. This new truck will replace our 1989 reserve engine after 32-years of service, and will be assigned to the Pine Point station as Engine 4. This will be that company’s first new truck since 1981, 40 years ago. Over the next few weeks the new truck will be set up by our fire mechanic at Public Works along with assistance from our radio vendor. Equipment, tools, and hose will be transferred and installed, and the crews will be trained in the operation of the new apparatus. We expect it to officially be placed into service by mid-June.

The replacement of fire apparatus is a significant investment, and our department is extremely grateful to the taxpayers for approving this replacement pumper which will serve our department well for years to come. I thought this would be a great opportunity to explain how we determine when apparatus needs to be replaced as well as the process we use to design, specify, and competitively bid these critical tools.

The process starts with the Apparatus Replacement Plan. Since the 1940s, our department has had the vision to plan for the replacement of its fleet at the end of their service lives. That plan has been updated and modified over the years based on changes in the industry and ever changing national standards and safety requirements. A copy of the department’s most recent replacement plan is available by clicking the Apparatus Replacement Plan tab on our webpage at: https://www.scarboroughmaine.org/departments/fire-and-rescue/.

At least a year before an apparatus is scheduled to be replaced, the Fire Department’s Standing Truck Committee starts to meet. This committee includes the chief officers, a member of the career staff, per-diem staff, and a representative from each of the call companies. Our most senior member, Captain Bruce Bell, has been serving on this committee, and has been instrumental in guiding its work for over 50 years.

The first task is to identify where the new truck will be assigned and what, if any special design features need to be incorporated. Although we try to standardize our apparatus so they are similar in design and function, we are a diverse community. The needs are different in Pine Point where there are hydrants every 500’ than they are in North Scarborough where there are no pressurized hydrants. The truck committee meets with several of the leading manufacturers to hear what is new in the industry and what has changed in terms of safety standards and options.

Once that information is obtained the committee crafts a set of specifications that form the backbone of a formal Request for Proposals (RFP). The specifications outline minimum design standards and options to make sure our investment meets our department’s specific needs and that the truck is safe and functions as designed. We take care to make sure the specifications are generic and open, so that they can be bid by a range of manufacturers versus proprietary specs that could potentially limit competition. From there the purchasing department incorporates the specifications into a formal RFP with the legal boilerplate language that protects the Town, outlines the details of the procurement process and requirements, and establishes the evaluation criteria. The RFP is sent to several of the major manufacturers and they are usually given at least four weeks to submit their proposals.

A significant portion of the committee’s work comes during the proposal evaluation process. We historically receive five to eight very detailed proposals that may each contain over 200 pages of information and details. Each manufacturer builds their trucks differently and it takes a careful detailed analysis of each line item in the specification to assure it was not only included, but indeed meets the specification as proposed. From there each member of the committee rates the proposals based on the scoring criteria outlined in the RFP. Points are awarded for the completeness, clarity, and details of the proposal; adherence to the specifications; sales, support, experience, and manufacturer qualifications; quality, durability, warranties and value; and obviously cost. Once each committee member has scored the proposals they are averaged and a recommendation is forwarded to the purchasing agent and town manager for award of a contract.

In the case of the new Engine 4, we received seven proposals from six different manufacturers. The contract was awarded to Alliance Fire Apparatus representing Pierce Manufacturing, one of the oldest and largest fire apparatus manufacturers in the country. The unit was built in the USA in their state-of-the-art facility in Appleton, WI, within budget, and was completed within the required time frame of nearly one year from contract signing. The new truck is a smaller more compact design than many of our current models. It was specifically designed for some of the denser neighborhoods with narrow streets and tight turning radiuses. It has a lower hosebed and smaller water tank to meet the needs of the more urban areas of town with fire hydrants. It also contains the latest safety enhancements including air bags, traction control, anti-lock brakes, and other safety features common in almost all passenger vehicles today.

I hope this explanation of the detailed work that goes into replacing a piece of specialized fire apparatus has been helpful. I would be remiss if I didn’t compliment the members of the Fire Department’s Standing Truck Committee for all of their detailed work on this project. The experience and expertise they bring to each apparatus they work on, assures that new truck will help our department fulfill its mission to protect the citizens of Scarborough for many years to come.

The men and women of the Scarborough Fire Department sincerely thank the taxpayers of Scarborough for supporting our apparatus replacement program. If you have any questions about this article or any Fire Department issue, you may contact me at [email protected] or 207-730-4201.

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