New fire engine will hit the streets later this month

New fire engine will hit the streets later this month

From left, North Smithfield Fire and Rescue Services Deputy Chief Thomas Dybala, Private William LaBarre, Lt. Jeff Houle and Chief David Chartier stand with the new fire engine at the St. Paul Street Station. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)
Other equipment upgrades expected to increase signal connection, safety

NORTH SMITHFIELD – A new arrival has made its way into town in the form of a brand new fire engine housed at the St. Paul Street Fire Station.

According to North Smithfield Fire and Rescue Services Chief David Chartier, the $550,000 engine arrived the day before Thanksgiving to replace a 17-year-old engine previously based out of the St. Paul Street Station. The new arrival brings the town’s total fire engine fleet to three, with two frontline engines and the old engine kept on at St. Paul Street Station as a spare.

“The truck that’s being replaced is close to 20 years old, so this really was a project that had already got rolling when I got here,” said Chartier, who took his post as chief in July.

While North Smithfield Fire and Rescue Services is a privately run organization contracted by the town, all vehicle equipment, explained Chartier, is the property of the town and must undergo a months-long public bidding process similar to any major town purchase. Retired Chief Joel Jillson, retired Deputy Chief Brayton Round and current Deputy Chief Thomas Dybala headed up the purchase, which had already been finalized when Chartier was appointed during the summer. The truck was custom-ordered from Toyne Inc., with local fire equipment company C&S Specialty serving as dealer, and took nine months for delivery.

The new truck has a 750-gallon capacity and can pump 1,500 gallons per minute. According to Chartier, the vehicle has enhanced safety features compared with the previous engine, including rollover protection and additional airbags, and meets higher emissions standards. He expects the new engine to be fully operational by mid-December after department members have had the opportunity to train with it.

The engine is the second vehicle acquired by North Smithfield Fire and Rescue this year after a new rescue vehicle was delivered in February, bringing the town’s rescue fleet to two frontline vehicles and one spare. According to Chartier, the second frontline fire engine, located at Primrose Fire Station, is also approaching the end of its lifespan and will need to be replaced within the next two to three years.

In addition to the vehicle purchases, the Town Council in November approved the purchase of a new communication dispatch console and new portable radios totaling approximately $100,000. The new equipment, said Chartier, will allow the department to switch over to the state’s 800 MHz digital communication system, a move expected to enhance connectivity and reduce dead zones across town. The town’s current VHF system, he said, is plagued with signal issues that pose a safety hazard to membership, as members are sometimes unable to communicate with each other while responding to separate incidents.

“It was originally looked at for us to improve that system, but it became very clear to us that it was more cost effective to go on (the state) system,” he said.

While the new system will eliminate most dead zones across town, Chartier said he anticipates members may still have some difficulties receiving a signal inside buildings. In October, the department applied for $356,000 in federal grant money to fund the purchase of additional portable radios and a digital mobile vehicle repeater intended to eliminate those issues. The new equipment, he said, would reduce the department’s liability by further improving signal connection.

“If we don’t get the grant, the town will have to start funding money in small chunks for us to do these upgrades,” he said.

Other recent equipment upgrades include a battery-operated Jaws of Life unit purchased alongside the new fire engine and a second ice rescue platform to allow the department to maintain one at each fire station. The town also recently approved approximately $125,000 to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatus and has gradually replaced the department’s protective clothing over the past three years, a replacement mandated by the state to take place every 10 years.


When will the town finally straighten out the privately run Fire Dept and take ownership for what it already owns and pays for? Foolishness