AUGUSTA — With the Fire Department’s only ladder truck close to the scrapheap, the city is relying on mutual aid partners and preparing to spend $50,000 on a used truck within a few weeks.

That would be a short-term step as the department considers buying a new truck in the next year. Until then, it’ll rely on Gardiner or Winthrop to come with a ladder truck when needed.

Those departments are Augusta mutual aid partners that already send crews to big fires in the city, and their chiefs said little would change in those scenarios. Winthrop Fire Chief Dan Brooks said Augusta might have to ask for a ladder truck earlier in a call and wait five or 10 minutes longer to get one to a fire scene, but little effect is expected.

“We’ll help them as needed and if it’s something of significance, we’re there anyway, so I don’t see any huge impact on us,” Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson said.

Augusta Deputy Chief Dave Groder said the current truck, which is nearly 20 years old, blew an engine on the way back from a call last week. He said repairing it would be too costly, especially since the truck also would need other expensive work on its ladder turret to extend its useful life. Now the truck, which is in the Western Avenue station, probably will be sold for parts.

Both the truck and the station will benefit from a $4.6 million bond package approved by voters in November. The decision allocated $3.6 million for a new station on Leighton Road that probably would close the Western Avenue station and $1 million for a firetruck as the city anticipated replacing the current one by next fall. That truck will be a “quint,” which serves as both a ladder truck and an engine, with a pump.

Ralph St. Pierre, Augusta’s assistant city manager, said the city’s timetable for getting a new truck has advanced. City officials now hope to have it by summer 2016. In the interim, he said, the Fire Department has identified a ladder truck in Oregon that could be bought for $50,000.

He said once the city buys the new truck, it could sell it or keep the short-term truck as a spare vehicle for the region. St. Pierre said the city hopes to get that replacement truck within a few weeks.

“We’re also not going to make a bad decision,” he said. “So we’re going to do our due diligence and rely on mutual aid in the meantime.”

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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