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Surprise Firefighters Association upset with city after loss of engine

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PHOENIX — Despite the number of 911 calls being up 73% in the past 10 years in Surprise, the city has discontinued one of its fire engines.

Fire Engine 305, which services downtown — the busiest area in Surprise — has been taken out of service.

The Surprise Firefighters Association is frustrated because the city spent tax dollars on an independent study that cited the need for more trucks.

“That was a request from the city and went to the federal government,” Mike Payne with the Surprise Firefighters Association told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “We were granted that request and were able to use that grant to put up that engine part-time.”

The association also cited a 50% population increase in the city since 2009 as a reason for needing the engine. A city spokeswoman disputed the claim and said state statistics show the population increase was much lower, around 18%.

Payne said the issue started in 2016 when the city requested assistance for needs from the federal government.

The greatest need at that time was to add a fire engine that could pump water out of Surprise Fire-Medical Station 305 near Greenway Road and Bullard Avenue.

“In 2017, the city of Surprise authorized and paid … for an outside third-party expert to evaluate the public safety needs we have,” Payne said.

He said the top operational recommendation was for Engine 305 to be able to pump water since the only component they had at the time at that station was a ladder truck.

With the short-term approval of having Engine 305 operating 40 hours a week compared to 24 hours a day, the city has now decided to take it out of service.

The replacement for a four-person fire engine capable of pumping water is a two-person pickup truck called a Low Acuity Unit.

“That just doesn’t work for us,” Payne said. “The reality is that the Low Acuity Unit cannot put out fires whatsoever. It’s only designed to go to our less severe emergencies people are having.”

The Surprise Firefighters Association is frustrated because they believe Engine 305 should be in service full-time, and they say they have the members to do it.

However, the city is awaiting word on an extension of a federal grant to help pay for the manpower to run it.

The city manager wrote a letter to residents of Surprise defending the replacement of Engine 305 by saying the Low Acuity Unit will be full-time.

Payne disagrees with the thinking of the city manager when he cites the pickup truck’s full-time hours will be more helpful for the city.

“The problem with that thinking is the city has failed to acknowledge their decision is … they have adequate coverage as long as your emergencies are of the low acuity type,” Payne said.

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