GARY, Ind. — An aging fleet in need of repairs left Gary with less than half its fire engines in service recently and has forced the department to rent an engine, but fire officials say they hope the situation will improve soon.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends that a city Gary’s size -- about 79,000 residents -- have six engines. Gary has 11, but six have recently been offline for repairs. The department has rented an engine, but it has still found itself short of equipment, The Times reported.
Hammond, by comparison, has about 80,000 residents and is running six engines and has three spares, Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Margraf said.
The resource-strapped Gary department immediately called for additional resources after arriving at a blaze at an abandoned house June 16, Battalion Chief Donnie Williamson said. Gary sent two engines and a ladder truck to the fire, which threatened nearby buildings, but didn’t have enough trucks to comply with department policy. That requires two engines, a ladder truck, a rescue squad and a battalion chief to respond to an initial alarm. When a fire is upgraded to a box alarm, procedure calls for another engine, truck company and chief.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Fire Chief Teresa Everett told The Times in Munster that they’re aware of the department’s shortages.
“That was one of the priorities of our administration coming into office, because we understood how outdated and inadequate the equipment was,” Freeman-Wilson said.
The mayor said the department accepted an engine from the village of Glenwood in 2012. The engine was the oldest one the village had in surplus and is currently undergoing repairs, Everett said.
Everett said the department hopes to have all its equipment repaired within 60 days.
“Once we have everything repaired, we will be on target,” Everett said. “The ultimate goal is to get all of our apparatus repaired and not have to use a rental.”
Despite a lack of equipment, the department has actually been providing more mutual aid to neighboring communities than it has received, Everett said.
Since Jan. 1, Gary has requested mutual aid 26 times and provided it 34 times, she said.