DALLAS, Texas — Dallas Fire-Rescue recently informed city council members it was in a predicament: Its ladder truck fleet is shorthanded, and two extra trucks needed to be rented to fill gaps in coverage.
One of those rental trucks has arrived and is already out of commission per the Dallas Fire Fighters Association.
It underscores how big of a problem DFR is facing with its fleet and how things could go from bad to worse quickly.
"The state of our fleet is struggling, for lack of a better word," Dallas Fire Fighters Association President Jim McDade.
"It's all come to a head suddenly. Can we deal with it? Yes. Is it optimal? Absolutely not."
Since DFR announced almost two weeks ago that the fleet was in tough shape, another truck has also gone out of service per McDade.
And McDade is specifically worried about how fast a truck can be pulled out of service versus the time it takes to replace one so the agency can maintain its full response capabilities.
The memo to the Dallas City Council states that DFR maintains a 23-vehicle fleet of fire trucks scattered across the city. But nine trucks are currently out of commission due to mechanical issues.
The department has seven ladder trucks in reserve, which are all being utilized now.
That leaves the department down three trucks if you count the additional one that was sidelined since the memo went out.
The two rental trucks would leave the agency only down 1 truck, but since one has already been pulled, DFR is still out of two trucks.
The impacted stations, per McDade, are 4, 36, and 53.
Even though the department is renting trucks to replenish the fleet, McDade feels it's not a foolproof solution.
The department's challenges are supply chain woes and a lack of mechanics.
Ladder trucks are unique and complex machines, if one breaks down or needs fixing, it's not like you can take a quick trip to AutoZone to get parts.
"These trucks have hydraulic systems on them, they have diesel engines, they have mechanical pumps, and they're very technical," McDade said.
It's taking longer to get what mechanics need to fix the apparatuses, and not only that, mechanics are coming up short too.
"We're down probably ten mechanics right now," McDade said. "The city doesn't pay them enough, and they're going into the private industry, it's hard to recruit them."
McDade said the most recent truck placed out of commission should be back on the road sooner rather than later.
But the nine other trucks? It may take anywhere from 30 to 120 days to get them back online, he said.
"That's a very long time, and those are just estimates," McDade said.
The department assured the city that gaps in coverage shouldn't be an issue for now.
"While a shortage of available apparatus can represent a significant challenge to DFR, this is a temporary situation that we can and will manage," the memo stated.
"They just send the closest apparatus, so the computers automatically configure everything properly," McDade added.
But McDade remained less optimistic.
A wreck, an accident, or a mechanical hiccup, and the department is out another truck, the catchup game becoming all the longer.
"My fear is that we don't improve. My fear is that we will have some sort of bad accident. I mean, we're talking up to 120 days, and more apparatuses are probably going to have issues in that time," McDade said.
"These trucks didn't all break overnight, this has occurred over the past few months. It needs to be addressed."