A new fire rescue truck may save lives in Alexandria next year.

At its Monday night meeting, the Alexandria City Council authorized Fire Chief Jeff Karrow to obtain quotes for a new rescue truck that will replace a 1998 model, the oldest vehicle in the department’s fleet. Once a bid is accepted, it would take a minimum of 340 days for a company to build the truck according to specifications, Karrow said.

The rescue truck responds to every single call; one side is set up for extrication and patient care and the other side for fire and rescue needs, Karrow said.

“We are being called for more and more types of calls that would benefit from a more efficient and safer response vehicle, such as gas leaks, body recovery, searches, silo calls, water and ice calls, etc.,” Karrow said in a memo to the council.

Jeff Karrow
Jeff Karrow

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The cost of a new truck with “green” capacity ranges between $575,000 to $650,000. A green truck has the ability for many of the onboard tools to be electric or battery charged rather than gas-powered.

The current truck needs upgrades in lighting, the top compartment leaks and can no longer be used because water deteriorates the rescue rope, and the generators are showing their age, Karrow said.

In other action, the council approved Karrow’s request to replace a failing outdoor warning siren near 50th Avenue West and Highway 29. It agreed to purchase a new siren for $11,383 from Granite Electronics of St. Cloud.

The existing siren has failed to sound and rotate in the last few months during the Civil Defense warning tests, according to Karrow.

Another siren on Lilac Lane was recently repaired, Karrow said, adding that 2020 was hard on many sirens in the county.

There are 10 sirens in the city limit and 37 scattered throughout Douglas County.

The council tabled another one of Karrow's requests, the purchase of a decontamination washer for the fire department.

Karrow noted that studies have shown that firefighters run a significantly higher risk of dying from various forms of cancer than the general U.S. population because they’re exposed to hazardous chemicals and carcinogenic particles. The Echo Press printed a story about the risks in its March 19 issue.

The washer will thoroughly clean all protective equipment after every use. The fire department currently has two extractors for the turnout gear, along with cancer mitigation policies and procedures, but it doesn’t have decontamination units for breathing apparatus, helmets or gloves, Karrow said.

Council member Bill Franzen wanted to know how the contaminated water and filters would be maintained and by whom.

The council suggested that Karrow talk with the two other departments in the state that have the washer to see how they are working and how the contamination is taken care of. It voted to table the issue to answer those questions.

The cost of the washer – $25,749 – would be reduced through a federal grant of $15,127.