Fire truck catches fire

MOUNT DESERT — The fire department’s tanker truck caught fire Dec. 20 as it was traveling on Millbrook Road in Northeast Harbor.

Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire. Damage was not extensive and no one was injured.

“The diesel tank dropped right out of it,” Fire Chief Mike Bender told the Board of Selectmen Monday night. “It was caused by corrosion. The cross member that holds the straps for the fuel tank just gave way.

“It created an electrical fire because there were a lot of wiring harnesses underneath there, and they were sheared right off.”

Bender said the extensive corrosion had not been detected during inspections because the cross member was out of sight above the diesel tank.

“I think that over a period of time the salt and everything collected under there,” Bender said.

The firefighters on the tanker truck were going to assist an ambulance crew when the diesel tank dropped.

“Luckily, it was in town; it wasn’t headed out of town at 50 miles an hour,” Bender said.

He told the Islander Tuesday afternoon that the fuel tank and other damaged parts had just been replaced and that the tanker truck is now back in service.

The truck is 13 years old, and Bender said he would like to get at least three more years out of it.

He told the selectmen about the fire as he was talking with them about his budget request for next year. He used the incident to illustrate the need for ongoing funding for vehicle repair.

Ladder truck refurbish

For the coming budget year, Bender is asking for $22,000 to refurbish the fire department’s ladder truck. That is $16,000 more than is in the budget for repairs to that truck in the current fiscal year.

The ladder truck is 11 years old.

“We expect the lifespan to be somewhere between 20 and 25 years,” Bender said.

He and the selectmen hope the truck, which cost the town about $750,000 in 2009, can remain in service to the end of is life expectancy and beyond.

“If we were to replace it, I think we would be looking at well over $1.5 million,” Bender said.

Volunteer pay raises

His total budget request for next year is $652,831. That is an 8 percent increase over the current year’s budget. Much of the increase is for salaries and benefits.

Bender is asking for a 2 percent hike in the hourly rate that volunteer firefighters receive for going on calls and taking part in training or in work sessions at one of the three fire stations. The current pay rate is $13.80 an hour with a two-hour minimum.

“We also ask the volunteer firefighters to come in and fill in shifts when the full-time firefighters are not here,” Bender said. “I would like to raise the rate for that from the current $13.80 to what a starting full-time firefighter would make, which is $26.61 an hour.

“I would like to find firefighters who would be willing to stay in town and be available to go on calls from 5 p.m. until 5 a.m. The reason for that is we’re kind of in a tough spot between the time the [regular] on-duty crews go home and they come in the next day.

“There have been times in the past when we’ve had no response [to calls from volunteers] at all, and we’ve had to have Bar Harbor come over and take our calls for us,” Bender said. “So, I’m trying to minimize that.”

He said that even if just one or two volunteer firefighters could be counted on to go on calls during each shift, that would make a big difference.

The Mount Desert Fire Department has four full-time, paid firefighters, including the chief.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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