LA PLATA, Md. – The La Plata Volunteer Fire Department is showing off its shiny new firetruck. The Pierce Enforcer Rescue Engine not only looks great but it helps keep first responders and citizens safer.

But the process of adding a new fire engine to the fleet it not simple or cheap. This new vehicle cost $765,000.

VFD President Stephen Shahan walked us through the process of purchasing a new vehicle and explained what’s behind the hefty price tag

He said the new truck replaces a similar engine in the fleet. But there are important differences. “The new cab design provides improved safety features and more room in the passenger compartment. The engine is much more environmentally friendly with cleaner emissions output.”

Hefty Price Tag

The new truck cost $765,00. Shahan explained, “That sounds, and is, expensive because fire apparatus are specialty vehicles and are mostly custom built to meet the service delivery needs of the purchasing department.”

However, it can save money in the long run. “As vehicles and equipment get older and used more frequently, they require a great amount of care and maintenance. As they see more wear over the years, the maintenance and repairs become quite costly and are out of service more often and sometime for extended periods. Vehicle ‘out of service time’ is critical for emergency services.”

Designed By Committee

The term ‘designed by committee’ is usually meant to disparage something. However, in this case, Shahan said it’s a good thing. “It is extremely important for a department to carefully design a vehicle in order to make it most effective when arriving and working at an emergency scene.”

Fire Trucks

He explained that departments usually establish a diverse committee to design a truck that provides the best possible service. “They have to address the department needs, vehicle use, equipment carried and services the vehicle will deliver.”

The department develops detailed specifications to send out to solicit bids. Sometimes those specifications are 300 pages long. The committee then must evaluate the bids before securing funding and approvals for the purchase.

The entire process can take up to two years. 

COVID Delays

Fortunately, COVID only caused minor delays in the delivery of the engine. “The committee was not able to travel to the manufacturer to inspect the truck as it was being built. But members were able to travel there for a final acceptance inspection.”

The new engine arrived in La Plata at the beginning of September. 

Extensive Training

Now that the truck is in its new home, there’s still a lot to do. “When a new vehicle is purchased, there is an extensive training program that all firefighters will go through to ensure thorough knowledge of the equipment carried and the operation,” Shahan explained. “There is also an extensive driver training program for all drivers to successfully complete. This truck will require about a month of training prior to be placed in service for responses.

Right now, first responders are enjoying that new firetruck smell and getting familiar with their shiny new engine.