The City of Houston Fire Department finally has good news to share: The 2008 Pierce Saber pumper truck purchased last November from a department in Iowa has been repaired, and the repair cost represents a best-case scenario.

Department Chief Robbie Smith said the problem with the truck’s pump system turned out not the entire system, but just the impeller and shaft (the impeller is located at the bottom of the pump house and basically sucks water into the pump and creates pressure to send it out through delivery mechanisms). In turn, the repair bill was $9,812.74 rather than in the neighborhood of $23,000 if the entire system had been bad.

The Houston City Council recently authorized the maximum amount so the vehicle could be put into service. The truck was fixed at the city fire station on Wednesday of last week by personnel from Rescue Repair Inc. of Festus.

“It’s a lot of relief,” Smith said.

When the pumper was purchased (for $175,000), it came with documents indicating it was certified as having passed a pump test. But when it was brought to Houston, Smith decided to have its pump system tested so it would be on the same annual test schedule as the department’s other trucks.

That’s when things went south, because when Rescue Repair workers did the testing, the truck didn’t pass.

“It certainly was a big shock,” Smith said, “and unfortunately, we possibly weren’t told the truth about the documentations we were given before we decided to purchase it. But the necessary repairs have been made and it’s functioning.”

Smith said attorneys on both ends are still in correspondence about Houston being compensated for the repair cost.

Having the Saber in service means the department won’t have to roll out the big Pierce Quint ladder truck for every response.

“That’s a huge relief,” Smith said, “because you have a much larger rig and a lot more money involved. It’s a blessing to not have to roll that to every single call, whether it be a motor vehicle crash or things like that.”

The department’s other pumper – a 1998 Freightliner – has been out of service since October, but a necessary electronic control module (ECM) was purchased from an out-of-state source and installed last Thursday. The truck will soon be taken to a repair facility in Cabool for diagnosis and – hopefully – repair.

One problem it has is constantly overheating.

“There are also some brake issues, pump issues and motor issues,” Smith said. “We’ll see if we can’t get past that and move forward.”

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