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Fire department gives trucks annual checkups at Lodi Lake

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Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:17 am, Wed May 25, 2011.

Local firefighters were at Lodi Lake on Monday morning, giving the mechanical equivalent of a physical to some of the department’s fire trucks. The annual checkups give crews a chance to make sure the truck’s water pumps are operating at maximum efficiency and don’t have any serious leaks.

“A lot of people think when firefighters aren’t responding to emergency calls, we just sit around the station playing pinochle,” said Capt. Brad Doell. “That’s not the case; we always have equipment to check.”

The $750,000 fire trucks purchased in 2003 were parked behind Lodi Lake during the hour-long test. Each truck arrived at the inspection with 600 gallons of water in its reservoir, but the lake’s water supplied most of liquid for the evaluation. Using a process called drafting, firefighters would draw water from the lake and pump it through the truck’s system. An engineer would check the gauges and valves during the process to ensure they are functioning properly.

One of the most crucial tests, Doell said, is making sure the pumps meet their capacity of 1,500 gallons per minute.

Despite the fact that budget cutbacks have reduced the number of firefighters on duty and trucks in service around the city, Doell said the department doesn’t cut corners on inspections and maintenance. The crew from Fire Station 1 even had help from Station 3’s engineer, Dave Mettler, on Monday.

Mettler is part of the department’s mechanics team. The group is made up of several employees whose overlapping repair skills can fix everything from a hand-held chainsaw to a truck’s pump system, Doell said.

Although Mettler doesn’t typically work with Fire Station 1, he was swapped with another engineer to the station for a day so he could lend his expertise to the inspection.

An inspection takes about an hour per truck, Doell said. The crew follows an exam model created by the National Fire Protection Association, a public safety advocacy group established in 1896.

While a truck’s pump inspection is a larger undertaking, repair and maintenance is a regular part of the job, Doell said. Equipment checks for many items — including oxygen tanks — are conducted daily, and smaller systems on the trucks are monitored on a regular basis.

The work remains the same, even with less people, he said.

“Our job in emergency services is to be prepared, and these tests are a part of that,” he said. “We’ll just have guys do more with less.”

Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at jordang@lodinews.com.

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