The Teton County Board of County Commissioners has given Jackson Hole Fire/EMS the go-ahead to purchase four voter-approved wildland fire engines.
The decision came after the department struggled to find any available truck and settled on immediately purchasing a demo engine, designed solely for fighting wildland fires, and three customized engines capable of more work that will be delivered later on.
“Thanks for being creative and scouring the world,” Commissioner Luther Propst told Jackson Hole Fire/EMS Chief Brady Hansen on Tuesday.
Propst wondered if what the department planned to purchase would be enough to fight fires in the years to come.
Voters approved a $1.6 million specific purpose excise tax, or SPET, measure in 2019 that gave Fire/EMS the green light to purchase four wildland fire engines, replacing older engines that had been in the fleet since the 1950s.
Hansen said the department had solicited bids for new trucks but received only one offer from one of the United States’ largest truck manufacturers. That manufacturer, Hansen said, would be able to provide the trucks, but in 450 days.
“So well over two more fire seasons before we could get those,” Hansen said.
The reason, the fire chief said, is that all the vehicles manufacturers can build are spoken for, in part because California has been buying all the trucks it can.
But Hansen said his department found a single truck, a demo designed for “pure” wildland firefighting.
He decided to ask the county board for approval to purchase the truck, aiming to bring some additional firefighting resources online sooner, and to work with the larger manufacturer to receive the other three trucks in the timeline originally proposed.
The other three trucks will be customized for Teton County and will be for fighting fire in the wildland urban interface, which is the fire-prone area where human development bumps up against the forest. Teton Village and many areas on the West Bank are included in that.
Commissioners agreed, supporting the purchase unanimously.
The wildland engine should be delivered to Fire/EMS shortly, Hansen said.
And in response to Propst’s question, he said the department would likely need more capacity soon. His goal is to have one wildland engine in each of the county’s stations. That would, however, stretch capacity in the department, which also responds to ambulance calls, structure fires and other disasters.
So, Hansen said, he was “well stocked in the brush truck department for the immediate future.” But if he’s able to grow his volunteer base, he said, he wouldn’t mind expanding the fleet.
The demo truck is set to cost $365,000, according to a staff report.
The three custom engines are set to cost $1,344,054 in total.
Because collections from the 2019 voter-approved SPET measure aren’t supposed to be complete until the next fiscal year, which starts in July 2022, the remaining $109,054 to be collected will be paid via a capital request.
The idea is to enable the purchase sooner rather than later.