For the first time since 2002, the Branchville Volunteer Fire Company is getting a new fire truck. But the process of acquiring a truck, or "pumper," isn't quite as easy as heading to a dealership and driving it off the lot.
The new truck is expected to arrive in College Park in early September. The company currently has two trucks; the other was purchased in 1995. For a station that fields 7,000 calls a year from not only College Park, but cities in Montgomery County, Anne Arundel County and even Washington, D.C., two trucks isn't a whole lot.
Michael Burrier, the volunteer fire chief at Branchville, said it's best to get a new truck every five years. But at roughly $500,000 per vehicle, such a frequency is a bit impractical for a nonprofit like Branchville.
"It's an $80,000-a-year car payment, basically," he said. "Replacing it every five years would be financially impossible."
Moreover, each fire truck is built from scratch and takes roughly a month to build. But the most time-consuming aspect of getting a new truck is the planning.
"It's a very long process," Burrier said. "It takes longer to build the specifications for the fire truck than it does to actually build the apparatus itself. By the time it's over, you've probably got a 300-page book."
To the fire company, though, the benefits outweigh the costs. The many elaborate mechanisms adorning each fire truck are also things that can -- and do -- wear out with age. In fact, Branchville operated with only one fire truck for the first six months of 2010, when both trucks needed repairs back-to-back.
"It will be very fortunate to have one here with warranties," Burrier said.
The new truck will be smaller than the other two in order to accommodate College Park's crowded neighborhood streets, since student housing often means multiple people with cars occupying a single residence. It will also feature state-of-the art equipment and increased reflective lighting on the front and the back.
But most importantly, the new truck will mean better service to the community, Burrier said. Though the company's response time, which is around three minutes, will remain the same, an additional truck will allow more firefighters to be present at any given scene.
"We'll be allowed to bring more personnel," Burrier said. "Instead of bringing one fire truck with six people on it, we can bring two fire trucks with 12 people."