American Lafrance built 90 percent of the fire apparatus now used to fight fires in the city of New Orleans, but the South Carolina-based fire truck maker, in business since 1873, suddenly shut down operations in January.
'When American Lafrance went out of business, our ability to get parts has become very, very difficult. They literally, no warning, closed their doors,' said New Orleans Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell.
New Orleans Firefighters Union President Nick Felton says repairing and maintaining front line apparatus has been difficult.
'The repair of the already broken and dilapidated fleet that we have is absolutely past critical mass,' said Felton.
Felton says much of the NOFD fleet needs to be serviced or replaced. 'I can't tell you the last time my fire truck had a brake tag on it,' said Felton. 'Lights don't work. Windshield wipers don't work, as well as the mechanics on them, some times they don't pump.'
'Always keeping apparatus up and running is a priority,' said Chief McConnell. 'I don't see that it's hit any critical point at this time.'
Livingston Parish based fire truck manufacturer Ferrara just signed a contract to fix and maintain the NOFD fleet. Chief McConnell says the company is already helping with a backlog of repairs.
'I hope it will be to our advantage to have someone that's here in Louisiana, just across the lake to deal with on the apparatus,' said McConnell.
The city is now getting ready to go out to bid to purchase new fire trucks on an ongoing basis. Chief McConnell says that Ferrara may be a good fit for that contract as well.
'They've supplied many, many ladder trucks to the city of New York. They've got a good reputation in the industry as being reliable. I know several of the surrounding areas utilize their equipment.'
Felton also vouches for Farrera's reputation.
'I see those pumps out all over in other municipalities and they seem to be working pretty good. I haven't heard any problems with them.'
The city hopes to have the new fire truck contract in place before the end of the year.