Fire union wants police department to inspect fire fleet

By Claudia Vargas

The Philadelphia Firefighters and Paramedics Union Local 22 is asking the city’s Police Department for a detailed inspection of the fire department’s entire fleet, which includes dozens of ladder trucks and engines.

The request comes days after a fire broke out in Medic Unit 44, which was stationed at a firehouse across from the Arch Street Meetinghouse and two blocks from Independence Mall. It also comes days after the city beat the fire union in court over the right to demote 14 previously promoted firefighters. The two sides just seem to continuously disagree.

Union officials say that the city’s annual fleet maintenance inspections aren’t enough. The city police or State Police should conduct a more thorough inspection of the fire department’s 100-plus fleet, Local 22 president Joe Schulle said Tuesday.

City officials called the request “bizarre”, “political” and “opportunistic.” The city will not be complying the union’s request.

“The front line units get looked at four to five times a year,” said Dave Wilson, a deputy managing director who oversees the city’s Fleet Department.”We’re trying to do the best we can to make sure we have a safe and operating fleet.”

The fleet department is in charge of inspecting all city fleet, including fire apparatus which Wilson said have an average age of nine years. The police department only does “very-limited scope,” inspections, Wilson said.

“Mr. Schulle is barking up the wrong tree,” said city spokesman Mark McDonald.

Local 22 disagrees, saying the city or state police would offer an “objective, trusted inspection.” Schulle cited prior issue’s with the department’s fleet: “In 2009, Engine 56 ignited due to a mechanical problem, causing significant damage to the vehicle. In November 2012, Ladder 34 and Ladder 31 collided due to brake failure.”

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