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Mike Riehls
September 26, 2013
CITY OF GROSSE POINTE — The purchase of a pint-sized fire truck promises to be more of a Mighty Mouse than Mini Me.

The public safety director is shopping to replace one of the City of Grosse Pointe’s full-sized pumper trucks with a mini-pumper.

“Overall, everybody’s in favor of if,” said Director Stephen Poloni.

Positives range from tactical — it’s small and light enough to fight fires from within parking garages and from marina docks — to fiscal: “It’s within our budget,” Poloni said.

The city council last week approved Poloni to seek bids for a new truck costing up to $170,000.

“A mini-pumper is half the price of a normal-sized pumper.”

There’s another practical consideration.

“It will fit in our building,” Poloni said, referring to the firehouse’s small truck bays.

Trade-offs of a half-sized truck are less capacity to carry equipment and a smaller on-board water supply.

The type of little squirt Poloni is eyeing carries 400 gallons of water and 17-gallons of foam. The amounts are enough to rate the truck a Class A pumper, the same as the vehicle being replaced.

“For us to stay a Class A pumper, we have to go with 400 gallons of water and 2,500 pounds of equipment on it,” Poloni said. “If we went with 500 gallons, you can’t carry as much equipment.”

Mini-pumpers also lack long ladders, as on full-sized trucks.

“But with the automatic aid agreement we have, by the time we hook up and start to fight a fire, any ladders we need to get to roofs are already going to be there, either from a ladder truck from Grosse Pointe Park or Farms,” Poloni said.

The City’s downsized fire-fighting fleet and dependence on fully-equipped neighboring departments is of cautionary concern to Park Councilman Greg Theokas, especially due to City officials courting four and five-story developments, including a hotel, to the Village downtown district.

“We take our $800,000 equipment to fix their skyscrapers?” said Theokas. “In a sense, the City can encourage all this development and let somebody else go in there if they need fire trucks.”

Park and City officials are considering the Park’s take-over of City police, fire and EMS duties.

Yet, other members of the five-Pointe and Harper Woods mutual aid pact may request backup from the mini-pumper more than expected.

The unit’s small size and relatively low weight lets it be deployed to tight spaces and on soft ground where regular trucks can’t maneuver, such as up narrow residential driveways and on lawns behind estates, according to a Farms fire official.

Representatives of the mutual aid partners endorsed the City’s decision to buy a mini-pumper.

“There was unanimous consensus that the purchase would serve as an integral part of the mutual aid response,” Poloni said. The new apparatus replaces a 34-year-old hangar queen relegated to back-up status.

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