Columbus Fire & Rescue faces funding need for new fire trucks

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – The average life expectancy for a custom-made fire truck like this one is about 25 years. Well, the clock is ticking for Columbus Fire and Rescue because if more funds don’t come in soon, a couple of trucks could be out of commission, and that can affect more than just the size of their fleet.

“Creeping up on the 25-year mark, presently I have four trucks,” said Columbus Fire and Rescue Chief Duane Hughes.

Hughes said the city hasn’t purchased a fire truck since 2011, and his department is at risk of losing four.

“Two that are mainline pumpers near that 25-year expiration dates. And two are what we call reserve trucks. We only put them in service when the mainline trucks are up for servicing or down for repairs,” said Hughes.

Without a full fleet of trucks, Columbus’ fire department’s National Accreditation could be at risk as well as their ability to respond to different types of fires.

Mayor Keith Gaskins said the city just doesn’t have the money on hand.

One custom-built truck costs upwards of $1 million.

“It’s very difficult for cities of our size to have money in reserve at all times for truck replacement that’s why we rely heavily on grants,” said Gaskin.

“We applied for a grant last year and were denied,” said Hughes.

After reapplying for the grant, the city will be notified if Columbus Fire and Rescue was approved or denied again for aid.

Hughes said if the latter proves to be true, he has a plan, even if it’s not the most favorable.

“Our plan B is two: we have the insurance rebate money that we can actually access and instead of paying for a firetruck outright, we would lease it,” said Hughes.

Gaskin said the city is looking for permanent solutions for when the next truck is set to expire.

“We need a long-term capital budget for the city. Not just for firetrucks but for all replacement vehicles and work on the various buildings we’ve had to take out bonds for in the past. We need to be working on building a fund to help us prepare well in advance for the replacement of these trucks,” said Gaskin.

The mayor said the city will be hiring a full-time grant writer by the end of March. He said this hiring move would help the city to be more aggressive in lobbying for funds.

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