Allentown firefighters say shortage of trucks is critical

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Allentown firefighters say shortage of trucks is critical. Gray Hall reports during Action News at 5 p.m. on April 21. (WPVI)

Firefighters in Allentown say the town's shortage of firetrucks has reached a critical point.

The shortage has been described as "Crisis Level."

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, says the claim by the fire department is exaggerated.

He said, "A couple of the older vehicles were down. They are now back in service. They were down for just a week. It is not like we didn't have vehicles out there."

The mayor believes it's all political smoke because an election is right around the corner.

He reassures the public there is no shortage and says the community is safe.

Mayor Pawlowski says a new truck is on the way and two other new ones will follow over the next couple of years.

"I care about our firemen, I care about their safety, and I care about the safety and community of our neighborhoods. And I wouldn't do anything to put them or communities in jeopardy," said Mayor Pawlowski.

He disagrees with the firefighters claims.

Jermey Warmkessel with the Allentown Firefighters Union sees things differently.

He says many of the trucks in the fleet are old and need to be replaced.

Warmkessel, who is also the president of the Allentown Fire Unit said, "It has been reported that it is in crisis. That is a true statement. One of the 11 pieces is from this decade and that is it, everything is between 9 to 22 years old."

Warmkessel says he has heard promises in the past from the two-term mayor about new trucks coming, but says they were always broken promises.

"Every year since he has been mayor, our fire chiefs have asked for a replacement, and every year they end up in capital funds as part of our budget and every year they go as unfunded," said Warmkessel.

Both sides agree that currently the city is safe, but say the fleet of trucks is aging, the argument is over how fast the trucks will be replaced -- and if it will be too late by the time the new ones arrive.

Mayor Pawlowski said, "It does put people in panic, and a panic they don't have to be in because it is not like we don't have equipment."

Warmkessel added, "It is a systemic problem. We need two, three to four engines now and we need to get on a replacement plan every five to eight years. We have doubled our call volume under this mayor. We use to be just shy of 6,000, now we are running over 11,000 calls - those are all miles and wear and tear."

The important thing is that the city of Allentown is safe, and only time will tell if the department gets those new trucks.
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