NEWFANE -- It’s no small task keeping an independent fire department running in a rural area.
And things get more complicated when it comes time to replace an expensive, specially made vehicle. But that’s what administrators of NewBrook Fire and Rescue Department likely will soon undertake, as the organization’s 17-year-old engine is due for a refurbishment that is expected to cost more than $100,000.
NewBrook President Greg Record said the investment underscores the need for community support for emergency services.
"People don’t realize it -- we are totally independent," Record said. "We are not town-owned or town-run."
NewBrook, which was established in 1948 and moved into a new headquarters along Route 30 in the 1990s, covers part of Newfane and all of Brookline.
Both towns contribute to the fire department’s operations: Newfane donates $17,500, while Brookline sends along $8,000. Record said NewBrook’s administrators are thankful for the towns’ contributions.
But he noted that municipal funding does not begin to cover the department’s bills. Annual Mutual Aid dues and NewBrook’s insurance bill each cost more than $20,000, he said, while utility bills top $25,000 yearly.
That’s why NewBrook bills itself as an "independent service, mainly funded by individual contributions."
"We send out a fundraising letter every year -- one a year," Record said.
He added that the department is "100 percent volunteer. There’s nobody who gets any sort of pay or stipend."
It follows that those volunteers must be careful with the money that comes in to NewBrook’s coffers. So when it was time to upgrade a 1986 pumper truck several years ago, administrators opted to refurbish the vehicle rather than replace it. The truck, which cost about $103,000 new, was refurbished for $106,000, Record said. But that represented a big savings for NewBrook.
"That truck is good now for another 10 to 15 years," Record said. "A new truck like that is $400,000 easy."
So department administrators now expect to follow a similar course of action with the 1996 engine. While there have been no major problems with the vehicle, NewBrook is taking a proactive approach, Record said.
"Your life expectancy on your big vehicles like that is about 20 years," he said.
Like the pumper, the engine was built by Wisconsin-based Pierce Manufacturing Inc. Company representatives have examined the truck and deemed it a good candidate for refurbishment.
"They said it’s nothing at all that would require a brand-new vehicle," Record said.
Refurbishing the fire engine is expected to cost $134,515, according to an estimate provided to the fire department. If the project proceeds as planned, Record said it won’t take long.
"With any luck, we could have it done by the end of this year," he said.
NewBrook has five trucks that can respond to emergencies. Record said renting a replacement might be an option while the department’s engine is in Wisconsin, but he said such a move would not be absolutely necessary.
He noted that NewBrook, like other departments, receives immediate help from other towns in the event of larger emergencies.
"It’s not like we’d be really short," he said.
The department also will not come up short financially, as Record said NewBrook wouldn’t need to go into long-term debt for the project. But he said administrators likely will make an appeal for public support.
"We do everything in-house," he said. "So any contributions we do receive, it goes to the fire department."