SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — While the Lake Norden fire department has received offers of help after a Wednesday morning fire destroyed much of its equipment, the long-term replacement will take time and money.
Four of the department’s five fire vehicles were destroyed in the fire as well as the two ambulances, said Tony Aas, the city’s police chief.
Area fire departments will help cover fires and related emergencies for the fire department. The state and others have stepped in to provide equipment and vehicles for ambulance service, Aas said.
“It’s 18 months out with any public safety vehicle, for new. It’s going to be a long process,” Aas said.
The fire destroyed two tanker haulers, a brush truck and one engine pumper, Aas said.
The wait for new equipment can be 18 months or even two years because equipment is added to the structure of the vehicle, said Charlie Kludt, the president of the South Dakota Firefighters Association. Fire trucks don’t come already assembled with equipment.
A basic, simple new vehicle will take less time to assemble than a more complex vehicle but the wait isn’t reduced much, if at all, from 18 months, said Kludt, who is also a member of the Viborg Fire Department.
The price for a new, or even a used fire department vehicle is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, Kludt said.
Costs for several new vehicles can quickly reach nearly $1 million. Kludt stressed he was quoting estimated prices for basic, or simple vehicles.
“A very simple, basic engine or pumper can be over $300,000,” Kludt said.
The cost of a basic new tanker which is used to haul water to a fire location is about $250,000, Kludt said.
For a grass rig or brush rig, “it doesn’t take long before you spend $100,000,” Kludt said.
“That’s just vehicle costs, that doesn’t include hoses, nozzles and things like that,” Kludt said.
The cost increases as those needed items are added.
“A nozzle can cost over $1,000 and some are in the $600 to $700 range for a smaller nozzle. You add that up and you are spending $5,000 to $10,000, depending on what you need,” Kludt said.
The cost decreases if used vehicles are purchased.
“There are quite a few places with used opportunities,” Kludt said.
Most fire departments have been working with the same company and/or sales representative for several years.
Those companies and representatives are part of a network in which information about available used vehicles and equipment are shared, Kludt said.
Viborg, for example, bought a new engine pumper and made sure neighboring departments knew its used one would be available.
“I have no doubt that Lake Norden would be able to find even used ones to fit their needs,” Kludt said.
But, used vehicles can still run $150,000 to $200,000 depending on the type and year, he said.
“A department looks at what it needs and uses most. Even if it’s a small grass rig and tender (tanker) to haul water, you have to have a pumper as well. All of a sudden you are at $500,000,” Kludt said.
When a department gets a used vehicle it doesn’t mean it’s getting an inferior vehicle, Kludt said of fire equipment.
As improvements or changes are made to fire equipment, departments may decide to buy new, he said.
A computerized system has replaced manual pump operations on some vehicles. The computer system monitors the flow of water and will adjust hose nozzles instead of a firefighter, Kludt said as one example of why fire vehicles are replaced with new ones.
Aas said the city has been contacted with offers of loaner vehicles and equipment from around the country.
“Right now, the issue is literally ‘where do we put them.’ That’s what it comes down to,” Aas said.
The fire station and ambulance building were destroyed in the fire. So were the offices of the police department.
Kludt said the SDFA has also told those offering equipment or asking to help that they need to wait for now because there is no place to put the equipment.
The ambulance service is the first priority for the city, Aas said.
“The ambulance should be up and running in a few days,” Aas said.
Codington County and Hamlin County have loaned Lake Norden emergency management trailers.
The ambulance service and the police department are each operating out of one of those trailers, Aas said.
The emergency building, fire trucks and ambulance are all insured, Aas said. The police portion is under city insurance, he said, while the fire department and ambulance service each have insurance.
Kludt said insurance can help with the cost of replacing the building and equipment. How much it can help with cost can depend on if the vehicles and building were insured for value or replacement.