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Decatur Fire Department looking into purchasing an electric or hybrid truck

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Decatur Fire Department looking into purchasing an electric or hybrid truck

The fire trucks parked inside of Decatur Fire Station No. 1. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur Fire Department is considering replacing one of its fire trucks with an electric or hybrid fire pumper.

On March 4, the Decatur City Commission voted at its regular meeting to allow the fire department to begin a specification process for a new fire pumper that will include researching electric, hybrid, and diesel options.

Pierce Manufacturing, a maker of fire engines, noted that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says a pumper fire truck is “[a] fire apparatus with a permanently mounted fire pump of at least 750 gpm (3000 L/min) capacity, water tank and hose body whose primary purpose is to combat structural and associated fires.”

The replacement of the fire pumper is on the capital replacement schedule, and it’s coming time to replace one of the fire engines. A vehicle committee within the department is researching the various options. They have found a few manufacturers.

The traditional diesel fire pumper would cost about $1.5 million. It would take about 36–40 months and there are several companies that make them. Maintenance services are also readily available for these trucks.

The hybrid model would cost about $2.5 million and has a 20-month build time. Pierce is the only manufacturer offering this option. The battery life would be about eight to 10 years. The hybrid model would be able to run on electric and diesel settings.

With Pierce, the department would be able to build the truck to meet its needs and ask the manufacturer to electrify it.

“Currently in service, there’s two of them,” Fire Apparatus Operator Abraham Duran said. “There was a third, which was in Madison, [Wisconsin]. They took their truck out of service after two years because they were a pilot program. Pierce took the truck back, is taking it apart, and is gathering all the data.”

The Decatur Fire Department would be able to shift between electric and diesel power as they need. If the battery were to die while the truck is being used, it would seamlessly shift to diesel, Sgt. Durell Coleman said.

Washington added that if the department were to use a hybrid truck, it would run on electric power while driving and use diesel power while on a scene and putting out a fire.

The size of the hybrid truck would be slightly bigger than what the fire department currently has because of the battery. But it would hold less water.

The current trucks hold about 750 gallons of water, and the hybrid model would hold about 500 gallons of water. The fire department has four trucks in total, so other engines that carry water would also be on a scene. When the trucks run out of water, the department then uses the hydrants.

A fully electric truck would also cost about $2.5 million, and it would take about 30–36 months to build. Rosenbauer and E-One are two manufacturers that build electric trucks.

“The wheelbase on this truck is a little longer because the batteries on this truck are actually at the base of the truck,” Coleman said. “With this truck, the way they got it is how you get it, so there’s no customization on the size and specs of the truck.”

The electric truck does have a diesel engine to extend the battery life.

“If you’re driving, and you’re going to make a long run, they use the batteries up to a certain point, and then it kicks on the diesel engine. It uses the diesel engine to charge the batteries,” Coleman said.

The department has not decided whether the city would purchase an electric, hybrid, or traditional diesel fire truck.

“We still need to do more research to find out what’s the best fit for us,” Washington said.

City Manager Andrea Arnold said the city could release a request for proposals seeking proposals for hybrid and electric trucks to get more information.

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