Council OKs long-term Irwin VFD support

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Although the narrow streets and steep hills in Irwin are picturesque, Irwin Volunteer Fire Department Chief Justin Mochar said they can be challenging for firefighters racing to get to a burning home.

With council's support, the Irwin Volunteer Fire Department will purchase a new, customized ladder truck with advanced driving and safety capabilities. Although council cannot commit future budget amounts to the truck, it authorized the solicitor to create a letter of understanding to make donations to the department for the next 15 years, contingent upon available funds.

All council members who were present approved the letter. Gail Macioce was absent.

“We're thankful they're supporting us,” Mochar said. “We wouldn't be able to do it by ourselves.”

Irwin firefighters will purchase a 2014 Smeal ladder truck for $684,192. Payments will be made over 15 years and split between the fire department for about $25,400 and the borough for $15,000, if funds are available.

It's similar to a previous agreement between the fire department and council for a rescue truck. In that agreement, both parties made matching $10,000 payments over a five-year period, and there was a clause that allowed borough officials to cut the donation amount if funds were not available.

Irwin firefighters test drove a ladder truck of the same model owned by Southwest Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department to ensure it could navigate the streets and hills, Mochar said.

“There's streets in Irwin that are inaccessible to trucks,” he said. “This truck made every turn.”

New features on the truck include a shorter wheel base, which allows for more maneuverability around tight turns and streets. It also has an angled front and rear to make better approaches and departures on steep hills, Mochar said. Safety features include additional air bags, traction control and restrictions ensuring the ladder won't operate over the center of gravity, he said.

The department traditionally has purchased newer used pieces of equipment to stay within budget constraints. The proposed ladder truck, however, is brand new and customized to the needs of Irwin firefighters. The department's current ladder truck is a 1994 KME tower ladder that it purchased from a broker in Tulsa, Okla.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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