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Syracuse fire officials asking city to plan years ahead for new fire engines

One of Syracuse's ladder trucks
Syracuse Fire Department
Syracuse Fire Department members use their ladder truck to rescue a female from Highway Overpass on I-81 on the edge of Hiawatha Boulevard bridge, Sept. 17, 2022.

Fire officials are warning city leaders that supply chain challenges could delay the shipment of much needed replacement vehicles unless orders are placed well ahead of time.

The city's fire engines don't get much rest between calls, and that means plenty of wear and tear during their 15-year lifespan. Fire officials usually plan well ahead for the purchase of new rigs, but Executive Deputy Fire Chief Rick Kisselstein told Syracuse Common Councilors that they need to place orders earlier than normal, especially because of supply and demand issues.

"The longer we wait to get in line to ask for these to be put into their queue to be built, the longer that we need to wait for them to come to us. Normally about 14 months for a build, and now they're out to about three years," Kisselstein said.

All fire apparatuses are custom-built to the specifications of each municipality, so that means fire engines aren't sitting around ready to be shipped at a moment's notice.

Consequently, the need to place an order so early creates some budget headaches for the city. Fire officials are asking the councilor's permission at Monday's meeting to issue $2.6 million in bonds for two fire engines, even though the rigs likely won't be finished until 2025.

Syracuse Budget Director Tim Rudd said the vendor just needs a guarantee the city is ready and able to pay up when the time comes.

"We're not going to bond now. We're just getting permission to bond because we don't pay now. We're going to pay when they deliver it," Rudd said

This issue is likely to come before the council in the future. Syracuse Chief Administrative Officer Frank Caliva said placing orders early will likely be the norm for a while.

"In the case of large items like this, that's very likely until the supply chain smooths out," Caliva. "But for the foreseeable future, I would say that the fleet manager is likely to start coming earlier, asking for permission earlier to bond."

City fire and budget officials said chances are very slim that the orders will be filled early, forcing the city to issue bonds sooner than expected. Councilors are expected to act on the fire department's request during its Monday meeting.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at