KEY LARGO -- Despite the recent tumultuous period for the Key Largo Fire-EMS District, officials still managed to negotiate a purchase for three new vehicles -- a ladder truck, a fire engine and a tanker truck.
The $1.4 million vehicle purchases, which follow on the heels of the district's replacement of its local fire service provider, are the largest it has made since its inception in 2005. Both the engine and tanker trucks have been in service for the last few months. Training on the ladder truck will begin this week.
Batallion Chief James Griffeth said the purchase was a much needed enhancement to the Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department. Griffeth said a member of the manufacturer, Ferrara, will be on-hand for in-service training of the vehicle.
Griffeth made the final trip to Ferrara's plant in Holden, La., where he signed off on the ladder truck acquisition. From there, he flew back to South Florida and Ferrara employees drove the truck to Key Largo. Ousted Fire Chief Sergio Garcia had initially arranged for the purchase.
The ladder truck, which will be used for structure or boat fires, allows firefighters to reach hard-to-access areas. The tanker truck uses a foam system to knock down fires, which will be useful for brush fires on the 18-Mile Stretch and elsewhere.
Negotiations for the trucks were hampered a bit when members of the former Key Largo Volunteer Fire-Rescue Department, in the midst of losing their contract with the district, asked for changes during the construction phases. This, among other factors, was noted by board member Bob Thomas when he voted to cancel the district's contract with the former department last May.
The purchase price of the ladder truck was $598,000; the engine, $401,000; and the tanker, $298,000. During personnel training, all three trucks will remain at Fire Station 24, but the ladder truck is expected to be sent north to Station 25 once it's operational.
The fire department is planning an open house to show the trucks off to the public.
Meanwhile, the district was expected to meet Monday, Jan. 27, to discuss a property lease with the former department, which owns the property on which Station 24 sits. Results from that meeting were not available at press time.
The district is considering offering to pay the former department for closing costs on the property's purchase. The former department is asking the district to go along with a rental agreement to pay for what it amounts to $2,500 per month in expenses.