Olympia Fire Department unveils strategic fleet fixes; replacing 30-year-old fire engines


Olympia Fire Chief Matt Morris unveiled a financial strategic plan to upgrade the department's fleet by adding two new fire engines.

At the Finance Committee meeting on Monday, Morris provided details of the plan, which involves replacing two aging fire apparatuses from as far back as 1990 that have high miles on them.

The Olympia Fire Department owns eight fire engines and two ladder trucks. Of the eight fire engines, four are in frontline service. Three engines are reserved, and one – the oldest and rarely used – sits at the training center.

According to Morris, their newest engine in service was in 2016, and it is now eight years old and has an estimated 367,000 miles on it. The oldest reserve apparatus they use is nearly a million miles old and is about 30 years old.

The fire chief added that the purchase would replace the 1990 training engine in the training center and the 1995 reserve engine.

The two new engines will go to Station 2 on the west side and Station 3.

Fire engine costs.
Fire engine costs.

Morris explained that the total cost for the two new fire engines is $2,543,101. However, the city has arranged to pay for this over four years to spread out the costs. The arrangement involves an initial $300,000 down payment when ordering the apparatuses. The annual payments of $300,000 will be made over the four years for $1.2 million in installment payments. This payment structure qualifies for $167,000 in discounts, bringing the final cost to $2.617 million plus taxes.

The fire department has an annual apparatus replacement fund contribution of $475,000. The plan outlined that $300,000 of that annual contribution would be allocated for the payments for the new engines each year. It would leave $175,000 in the fund annually for other fire department needs.

With $1.2 million installment payments, the balance would be $1.417 million in year four.

Morris stated there would be $700,000 remaining in the apparatus replacement fund at the end of the four years, which could be used towards the final payment. That would reduce the balance of about $717,000 towards the final payment.

Olympia City Manager Jay Burney added that over the next four years, as part of budget discussions, they would make recommendations to set aside small amounts each year from the fund to close that final gap.

Morris said their purchased engines use a middle-of-the-line standard model, with only customized lighting and color schemes.

Increase engine replacement fund

During the discussion, Morris mentioned upcoming replacement needs. He said one of the department's three frontline 2010 fire engines would likely need replacement within the next two to four years.

He said the 2010 engine had seen less use than the other two due to the station it was located at. However, it would still need replacing within the next couple of years due to accumulated mileage and usage over time.

Committee member Jim Cooper suggested the city budget should increase the annual contribution to the fire apparatus replacement fund to a higher level than the current $475,000. Given upcoming replacement needs, he said $625,000 or $750,000 would be reasonable.

Cooper wanted to start ordering the next apparatus before the end of each four-year period to avoid falling behind in the replacement schedule and funding.


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  • JulesJames

    I'm trying to figure out how a fire truck averages 45,000 miles a year. Assuming an average 25 MPH and a couple maintenance days scheduled per month, 45K miles a year equals over 5 hours each day. And once on-site, the engine must run the pumps. Hats off to the maintenance crews for these kind of numbers.

    Wednesday, March 27 Report this

  • BobJacobs

    There have been policies in the past to set aside money for replacement of fire engines and also for major building maintenance work. But when the budget got tight, these funds were raided and new efforts had to begin.

    Fiscal discipline is very demanding.

    Bob Jacobs

    Wednesday, March 27 Report this

  • JW

    It seems that the city is, like various states that scaled back pension contributions, learning how much pain is involved when the bill comes due for poor fiscal leadership. A budget band aid of scaling back contributions becomes a world of hurt when the money is needed years down the line.

    Wednesday, March 27 Report this

  • MartyKenney

    I agree with Jules! How the heck is the department putting 45k miles a year on these massive machines? Are they taking them to every homeless encampment fire on a daily basis??

    Seems to me like we need a better approach to the departments use of funds, rather than new trucks every 10 years. Maybe I'm out of the loop, but are there really that many house fires these days? What else does a pump truck getting rolled out of the station for?

    I'd rather my tax dollars go towards Fire fighter salaries than million dollar trucks.

    Wednesday, March 27 Report this

  • MartyKenney

    Fascinating. Just for the fun of it, I followed a ladder truck around today to see what the life of a ladder truck is. Based on a short answer from one of the firemen, it sounds like they do a lot of training along with the alarm calls. 48 hours of training per person. That makes sense how it adds up to 45,000 miles a year.

    Thursday, March 28 Report this