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East County Friday, Apr. 5, 2019 3 months ago

East Manatee Fire Rescue pumps up the volume

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Lakewood Ranch area fire district adds two new tankers to its fleet.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

As the summer brush fire season begins, firefighters from the East Manatee Fire Rescue District will be better able to answer the call.

The district this month acquired two new tanker engines. Their main purpose is to supply sites without access to water and supplement water supplies for regular fire engines.

“The tankers are used out east farther back off dirt roads,” Battalion Chief Kyle Taylor said. “These tankers allow us to get to those more rural areas. They can pull water from a hydrant or pressurized water source or they can draft from standing water.”

Each holds 1,900 gallons of water and can pump 1,200 gallons per minute from a source, such as a hydrant.

The pair replace a single 20-year-old engine tanker previously housed at Station 1, at 3220 Lakewood Ranch Blvd. The new engines will be housed at Station 3 at 150 Rye Road and at Station 5 at 15015 59th Ave. E., Bradenton.

East Manatee Fire Rescue Lt. Eric Hoying said the change will provide the district better coverage, shortening response times and helping ensure regular fire engines are available to respond to emergencies.

“Part of the reason we bought two was so we could cover both the (State Road) 64 and 70 corridors,” Hoying said.

The new tankers are lighter weight, have four-wheel drive and have a single axle in the rear, which makes them better able to maneuver and drive off road. The single axle also will require less maintenance, Hoying said.

“It can go places an engine can’t go,” Hoying said, noting trucks can get stuck in ruddy driveways or roads. “It’s not good when they do.”

The tankers costs $300,000 each with another $30,000 each for equipment. By comparison, one standard fire engine costs closer to $700,000 plus an additional $120,000 for equipment, Hoying said.

Taylor said East Manatee Fire Rescue runs brush fires regularly, especially in summer, and having two tankers will allow one tanker to be available should a fire or emergency occur elsewhere. It also will keep a tanker in service should the other need repair.

In total, East Manatee Fire Rescue has five engines, two tankers and two ladder trucks. It also has five brush trucks, which can spray water while moving, and one boat.

East Manatee Fire Rescue is finishing designs for its future Station 7, located on property adjacent to Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch’s headquarters, just south of Covenant Way. Construction is expected to take about one year.

EMFR also has plans for Station 8 at 6975 Bourneside Blvd., Bradenton, to improve response times for Panther Ridge and surrounding developments.

“We have the land,” Taylor said. “It’s all depending on the future growth and how fast (it comes). A lot of the infrastructure isn’t there yet.”

Taylor said the district has hired four new firefighters to replace one vacant position and supplement existing staff members so one crew each shift has a fourth person. The fourth firefighter will be a fill-in for other firefighters on vacation or other needs.

Taylor said hiring additional staff now also will allow EMFR to train firefighters now and so they could potentially be ready to transfer to Station 7 when it opens.

“We see the challenges of growth and we’re trying to grow with the community,” Taylor said.

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