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Fire Stations Struggle with Aging Engine Fleets -- Sky Arnold

NASHVILLE, Tenn -- Aaron Clark had every reason to be worried July 4th.

A fire broke out next door at his duplex but those flames never reached his side thanks to a quick response from the Nashville Fire Department.      

"The fire marshal said after that if I had waited 3 more minutes that it would've got over to this side and went ablaze," said Clark.

Clark's story is a good example of why every minute really does count in a fire and some say the equipment itself is putting those response times at risk.

Mark Young heads up the union that represents Nashville firefighters.

He says about half of the department's 39 engines are so worn out they frequently break down.

"A lot of our front-line equipment is so worn out it stays in the shop," said Young.

Most of the time, the department sends a reserve engine to fill in but last May the station actually spent two full days with no engine at all because there wasn't a reserve available.

That same month station number 17 spent a day without an engine too for the same reason.

If there had been a fire the next closest engine would've responded but Young says that may not always be good enough.

"You gotta rely on 2nd due and 2nd due's response time is gonna be quite a bit longer," said Young.

Fox 17 News asked Nashville Fire Deputy Director Mike Franklin about that concern and he says you're not any less safe today.

Franklin says the thing to remember is that stations are always close enough to each other the 2nd due response is never far.

 "The next engine truck rescue medic unit they're all pretty close anyway, probably a mile and a half two miles maybe in some cases 5 miles from the other one," said Franklin.

Still Franklin acknowledges the basic problem with old equipment.

In fact it's lead the department to start alternating vehicles other than fire engines on medical calls just to reduce wear and tear, including rescue trucks.

Young worries that creates another danger when those rescue trucks are on a medical call and are needed for an actual rescue.

 "Those rescues are specialized," said Young.

Once again, Chief Franklin says the department has it covered.
 "That rescue unit there's three other ones in the city.  We have a back up placement so when a unit is out we back them up with another unit," said Chief Franklin.