Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean and Acting Director of Fleets and Facilities Fred Podesta today announced the findings of an independent expert on the cause of the failure of Engine 81 at the tragic Fremont fire earlier this month.
After more than 39 hours of diagnostic and field testing, the consultant and emergency vehicle technicians were able to replicate the problem that occurred on June 12. They isolated the problem to a worn transmission control keypad. The keypad controls the vehicle’s transmission which engages the pump.
“After the tragedy in Fremont, we are especially sensitive to our mission to always strive for excellence in maintaining all lifesaving fire apparatus. The Fire Department has been more than cooperative in helping us get to the bottom of this recent failure. We have taken immediate action to remedy this problem and we will continue to be vigilant to keep our equipment in top shape for the safety of the public,” said Podesta.
Beginning today, mechanics at the Fire Garage are replacing the control keypads in all engines of the same model as Engine 81. The work is expected to be completed tomorrow.
“Our firefighters’ number one priority is to protect lives and property and when something goes wrong with our equipment it is critical that we find out why. The results of the investigation of Engine 81 provides us with important safety information to ensure our firefighters can perform their job,” said Chief Dean.
The consultant advised on recovery procedures if the pad does not engage on first attempt. The Fire Department has put together a set of written instructions for firefighters on how to “reboot” the system if necessary. The instructions will include the normal procedures for putting the engine in to pump and instructions for what to do if the engine will not go in to pump. They will be put in the cab of every engine in the department.
“Overall this particular device has performed very reliably over the years. But with this latest failure, we will redouble our efforts to maintain the reliability of our vehicles,” added Podesta.
All Seattle Fire Department vehicles receive a daily, weekly and monthly operator check and are on a six month preventative maintenance schedule.
The consultant is Mike Thorn of Oregon Apparatus Repair, Inc. He will provide a written report on his findings next week.