LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Of the six bond issues capital city voters passed Tuesday night, improvements for firefighting received the most support. Over 80% of voters approved a $19.5M property tax bond.
The bond said it was for Fire Apparatus improvement which simply means firefighting vehicles, and some could really use a replacement.
Captain Jacob Lear-Sadowski with Little Rock Fire Department explained, “They start to show their age and their wear just as we do.”
When the call comes in that someone needs help, firefighters have to be ready. So do their vehicles. Rushing to a scene and running for hours at a time, these red rescuers have to retire at some point, and Tuesday voters gave many of the oldest an escape hatch.
“With the passing of this bond we’re actually going to be able to replace 40% of our frontline fleet,” Captain Lear-Sadowski said.
Some of the vehicles are 20-plus years old, and when they break down the parts to repair them are not readily available and it takes even longer to get them back into service.
With newer vehicles, “We’re going to see better technology. They’ve improved on the apparatuses quite a bit in the way that they handle, the suspension, the steering, and also climate control will be better than some of the older units,” Lear-Sadowski stated.
First on the Little Rock Fire Department’s agenda is to order two fire engines and one ladder truck as soon as possible because it could take two years to fulfill the order.
“If we could snap our fingers and get all of them here tomorrow we would do it,” Lear-Sadowski insisted.
No need to sound the alarm though. That will be just in time for 2026 when Little Rock will try to keep its low ISO fire safety rating it achieved in 2016. That in turn will keep insurance premiums low for homes and businesses.
“This is a great opportunity with overwhelming support that showed citizens do care and want an ISO Class 1 fire service protecting them,” the captain concluded.
LRFD currently has a little over 30 frontline vehicles (22 engines. 8 aerial trucks, and apparatus used for hazmat, heavy rescue, bomb squad, and airport support), so it would be able to replace about a dozen eventually, including some that are waiting for repairs right now.
Six reserve engines and six reserve ladder trucks are also available and will likely be reinforced or replaced by the frontline vehicles which will be phased out.
We asked Little Rock Firefighters the last time they brought forth a bond just to update the fleet, and they could not remember ever doing it before.