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Six months after the City Council closed the Sunset Fire Department, details have emerged about mechanical problems that contributed to the station’s shuttering.

In a 2News report on Tuesday, an unnamed firefighter detailed “equipment failures right and left.” One of those failures delayed the volunteer crew’s response to a blaze that killed a former Sunset mayor and his wife in their home in February.

The crew was delayed because a firetruck’s engine allegedly wouldn’t start at the station, a block and a half away from the home.

The engine had no problems during standard checks earlier in the day, according to former interim Fire Chief Anthony Bott. In fact, he said, the firefighters had returned from driving it to lunch about 30 minutes before the call at about 1:20 p.m.

The station’s primary firetruck was being repaired that day, leaving the crew with the truck that wouldn’t start. The firefighters tried to start the engine three times, Bott said, then grabbed their equipment and left in an ambulance to go the fire. They arrived at the house shortly after a Clinton fire crew, Bott said.

Fire crews found longtime Sunset residents John and Nada Nicholas, a couple in their 90s, dead in the home. John Nicholas was mayor of Sunset for 10 years, according to an obituary.

The engine was repaired after the fire, Bott said.

In May, the City Council voted to shutter the department and contract with the North Davis Fire District.

Equipment failures, Councilman Chad Bangerter said, weren’t uncommon at the station.

“We’ve had maintenance issues galore,” Bangerter said.

But repairs weren’t a problem for the department’s budget, Bott said.

“The city was pretty good at giving us money for maintenance,” Bott said. “We didn’t have a problem with maintenance, as far as money goes.”

The station also had backups to use while equipment that failed was being repaired, he said.

“Fire departments do experience mechanical failures with equipment. ... They all experience it, they all take care of it, they all have a backup,” Bott said. “It happens in the fire service.”

Bott declined to say whether Sunset’s station experienced more — or fewer — mechanical problems than other fire stations, but he said that “with old equipment, you’re going to run into a high potential of equipment failures.”

While Sunset’s ventilation fans, ladders, rescue tools and breathing equipment were fairly new, he said, the vehicles weren’t.

The truck that wouldn’t start in February was a 1993 model. One of the ambulances was 17 years old. The station’s 1985 brush truck had been donated by the federal government.

The engine failure in February wasn’t the sole cause of the station’s closure, Bangerter said, but it was one of “dozens” of maintenance issues that contributed to the decision.

“Even when [the fire chief] came to us and said the firetruck didn’t start when the fire started, we still said, ‘Well, what does it take to fix the truck?’“ Bangerter said, adding that in February, the City Council ”didn’t actually say we were closing Sunset Fire or getting rid of Sunset Fire.“

The option of closing the department didn’t come up until the end of budget season in May, he said, when the City Council determined that the cost of building a new fire station, buying a new truck and hiring personnel. Aside from the administrators, the department comprises volunteer firefighters.

Since that City Council vote, residents have hired an attorney and signed a petition to reinstate the station.

10 days ago |
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