When a house is on fire or somebody's injured, emergency responders don't have time for delays. But there's a problem firefighters are experiencing that you've never heard before. Some of their own trucks are not starting.
The Channel 4 I-Team has found dozens of cases when Nashville firetrucks simply wouldn't start, and many firefighters say the city is on the verge of a real problem.
The fleet of firetrucks certainly experiences plenty of wear and tear as crews work to keep the community safe, but the firefighters' union says the number of trucks breaking down is unusual.
And they say what the Channel 4 I-Team discovered shows vehicles with "Band-Aid" fixes.
"The equipment is wearing out," said Mark Young, president of Nashville Firefighters Union, Local 140.
In just one year's time, there were more than 50 times when firetrucks simply wouldn't start. Other cases involved firetrucks dying while on the road and even at the scene of a fire.
We found several Nashville firetrucks with mileage beyond the industry standard for front-line responding vehicles.
"Worn out equipment is the big issue," Young said.
But the city department in charge of keeping the trucks running says there is no crisis.
"We think we're in pretty good shape," said Velvet Hunter, with the Department of General Services.
The city's own repair records indicate report after report of firetrucks not starting - most of the cases occurring before the trucks can even leave the fire house.
Several times, it's noted the trucks are repaired but then the vehicle dies over and over again.
Young said he's heard from many of his colleagues that they're fed up.
"You get these structure fire calls, someone trapped. You have to get there, because every second that is going by in those situations, that fire is getting bigger," he said.
A spokeswoman for the Nashville Fire Department referred questions from the Channel 4 I-Team to the Metro Department of General Services, which repairs and maintains the trucks.
We asked first about those 50 cases of dead trucks.
"The number 50 may not be so significant when you look at the grand total of how this equipment is being used," Hunter said.
Hunter points out that firetrucks run hard all the time, and the vast majority of trucks start up right away.
But the firefighters' union said tell that to the firefighters whose truck won't start, leaving them unable to respond to a fire.
"Seconds count in an emergency situation," Young said.
Hunter also adds that in the case of a fire, at least two trucks are sent, and if one won't start, the fire department makes sure there's another to replace it.
However, one report from firefighters states that when their truck wouldn't start, they were told there wasn't anything else for them to use, so the dead truck needed to stay in service.
"It was information we took in. Maybe it was a misunderstanding. A reserve was in fact provided to the fire department that same day," Hunter said.
As for all those trucks with more than 100,000 miles, most of them are reserve trucks, but some remain front-line responders.
And the cost is staggering to repair them. The city has spent $1.4 million for repairs to fire trucks in a year's time.
"They've got to get a handle on it. We're just a few years out from having major maintenance issues with equipment being down," Young said.
Regarding the question of whether those dead firetrucks resulted in people not getting the help they needed quickly enough, the fire department doesn't keep records that would show if a stalled truck impacted a rescue or a firefight.
The spokeswoman for General Services said fixing firetrucks is the department's top priority, and they have stepped up efforts to do routine maintenance on trucks to prevent problems.
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