Erie officials debut new firetruck, thank Harkins, Merski for securing funding

ERIE, Dec. 16 – At a news conference this morning, Erie city and fire officials unveiled the latest addition to the Erie Fire Department’s fleet: a new engine acquired with state funding secured by Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski. 

The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said securing $300,000 toward the purchase of a 2020 Pierce pumper truck – the second truck they helped the department obtain in two years – provided a chance to give something back to the city’s frontline heroes.

“Erie firefighters are asked to do so much with such limited resources, and they always rise to the challenge,” said Harkins. “They have worked hard through the years to maintain an aging fleet of vehicles.

“Despite those efforts, the older trucks and equipment begin requiring more frequent and costly repairs, to the point where maintenance is no longer cost-effective. Securing funding for fleet upgrades like this one and last year’s new rig for the crews of Engine 6 means less down time for crews, more cost-efficient operations and, ultimately, savings for Erie’s taxpayers.”  

Merski said: “As a former Erie city council member, I know there is a need to replace our aging fire apparatus, with many engines at the end of their recommended time as frontline vehicles. Replacing a fire engine is a very expensive line item for the city budget, and financial challenges are more extreme now that the pandemic has created new demands for the city.  

“I’m glad we were able to bring this money to the city and help provide an essential new resource for the first responders who do so much for our community.”

In addition to securing state funding for the rig, the lawmakers recently worked with UPMC Hamot and Erie Insurance to obtain funding for the department’s new dispatch system.

“The new system is computerized, so when firefighters are dispatched, it lets them know the quickest, safest route, the closest hydrants and anything out of the ordinary they might encounter,” Harkins said. “It’s a huge improvement over the paper maps and notebooks the crews were using.” 

The pumper truck for the crews of Engine Company 13 is the second rig in two years Harkins and Merski helped obtain. In 2019, the department acquired a new $650,000 Pierce rig for the crews of Engine Company 6, funded largely with money the lawmakers obtained from the state.

The news conference also recognized seven Erie firefighters who were promoted in 2020.