The Decorah City Council will hold a public hearing Monday on whether to issue up to $650,000 in bonds to pay for a new joint city/rural "rescue pumper" that will improve the Decorah Fire Department's response, according to department officials.

Last week, the Council authorized a bid letting for the new truck and scheduled the public hearing on financing for 7:45 p.m. during the Council's regular meeting at Decorah City Hall.

Decorah firefighters and members of the Decorah Rural Fire Protective Association have been working for several months on specifications for a new truck that would serve both the city and rural areas. The Fire Department and the Association would each own half the truck.

The Decorah Rural Fire Protective Association is made up of township trustees who operate and provide funding for the Association.

"We're looking to combine a 1995 personnel carrier and a 1997-pumper and replacing those with one truck that will be a combination of a pumper rescue truck and a rescue pumper ... it will be utilized both in the city and the rural areas as the first-arriving truck," said Steve Vanden Brink, public information officer for the Decorah Fire Department.

"It will improve our response time in respect to the number of personnel being delivered to the scene with the very first truck," he said.

Instead of only having three firefighters arriving on the first emergency vehicle, the new rescue pumper will have six to seven firefighters ready to respond. Currently, the second truck that arrives has seven.

For a rural fire, the new truck would be followed by two firefighters in a 2,000 gallon tanker, and for a city fire, the new truck would be followed by the Department's aerial truck, which can take another six firefighters to the scene, Vanden Brink said.

"For a city call, within the first five to eight minutes, we'd have a total of 12 firefighters on the offensive to take care of any fire," he said.

The new truck is expected to last 25 to 30 years. The Department's "Engine 1" pumper truck was new in 1991, and in 2005, the department spent $100,000 to refurbish it. Vanden Brink said he expects that truck to serve the department for another 10 to 15 years.



Increased risk

As more homes are being built in small subdivisions and places such as the Haugen Hummel subdivision northeast of Freeport, the risk for fires increases, according to Vanden Brink.

"With this new truck, we'll be able to deliver better fire services by getting more people on the scene ready to go and suppress the fire," Vanden Brink said.

City Manager Chad Bird said the cost of the truck for the average homeowner would be approximately $25 per year for the five years it will take to pay off the loan for the new truck.

"We want to thank the city and the Decorah Rural Fire Protective Association Trustees for allowing us to pursue this. It is needed to improve our fire service that we already feel is a role model for other fire departments of the same size," Vanden Brink said.



Five openings

There are currently five openings on Decorah's volunteer Fire Department. It requires 80 hours of training initially, followed by a minimum of 24 hours of additional training annually.

Decorah area residents interested in volunteering should stop at the fire department, or e-mail the department at dfd@decorahia.org, to obtain an application.