Royalston FD tanker temporarily out of service

  • Royalston Fire Chief Eric Jack, right, told the town's Selectboard at its meeting on Tuesday, May 17, that his department's tanker is temporarily out of service. Next to Jack is town Tax Collector Rebecca Krause-Hardie. For the Athol Daily News/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 5/18/2022 2:39:08 PM
Modified: 5/18/2022 2:37:22 PM

ROYALSTON — Fire Chief Eric Jack informed Royalston’s Selectboard at its meeting on Tuesday, May 17, that his department’s tanker — a piece of frontline equipment — is currently out of service.

“Last Wednesday we had Engine 2 and tanker scheduled to do pump testing,” Jack explained. “The pump passed, but in the process the engine overheated. The company shut the truck down, then when it cooled, they finished the test.”

As the truck was being transported back to the Public Safety Building from Whitney Hall in South Royalston, Jack said, “It wouldn’t make the hill coming out of the village.” The water in the tanker was subsequently dumped and the truck limped back to the station.

The following day, according to the chief, the problems with the tanker continued.

“It was having a lot more issues,” Jack told the board, “So, they believe something failed inside the motor — which is unfortunate, because the motor in that truck is a 500,000-mile motor. But, obviously, fire trucks get driven differently than commercial trucks do.”

Jack said he has solicited three bids for repairs to the vehicle.

“I’ve got two — well, one on the way from the national dealer and one from a local shop — to put a replacement motor in, a rebuilt motor that’s got a one-year warranty and would be a fine replacement for us. It’s about $20,000 for the motor and related equipment that goes along with it.

“The bright side is,” Jack said, “the truck is in fantastic shape for its age. So, we should expect to get several more years out of it. Just for reference, the cost to replace that truck today — if we could get one, it’s a two-year wait — is a half-million dollars.

“So, my recommendation absolutely would be to replace the motor. I’ve already scheduled to have some pump work done, similar to what we did to Engine 3. It just didn’t need any of the repairs like the truck we had the warrant article for last year. The plan was to do all the little things we held off on this year due to budgetary concerns, and that truck would be as good as you could expect for the age. I just didn’t anticipate the motor going. It was completely unforeseen.”

Jack reassured the board that Phillipston and Richmond (New Hampshire) will provide “automatic response” with their tankers; “but we’re kind of dead in the water at the moment.”

Jack did say he checked with the town’s insurance company to see if some repairs would be covered under the town’s policy.

“There was a little bit of an issue with training — with the pump,” Jack continued. “It was taken out of gear improperly by somebody new who turned something wrong and there was some grinding. I don’t think that necessarily caused it. It would be more of a transmission thing, which works fine. But I just threw that out to them in case.

“I don’t know if they’re going to cover it. There really has to be a parallel, and I don’t know if there was one.”

In response to a question from board Chair Deb D’Amico, Jack said the motor powers both the truck and the pump.

“It does both,” he said. “The motor drives the truck. When the truck gets to where it needs to go, it has the big tank, so we can either dump the water off or use the pump. There’s a shifter that moves it from road mode to pump mode. There’s a transfer case, so the drive shaft will either run the rear end, or it will switch over and run the pump.”

Speaking with the Athol Daily News following the meeting, Jack explained, “That is a front line vehicle. It’s our only tanker. We have two engines — traditional fire engines — and the one tanker. It holds about 1,800 gallons of water, and it will traditionally roll out along with (an) engine. It will either tie in with the engine, or it will dump the water and go re-fill.”

The chief said he is looking for a complete refurbished, remanufactured engine for the tanker.

“Once the engine comes in, it takes about three or four days to do the changeover because it’s pretty much complete. They just have to change the exhaust manifold and a few other things. It comes with the exhaust system and the turbo. It’s pretty much un-bolt the old one and put the new one in.”

While turnaround time for replacing the engine isn’t that lengthy, Jack said the work can’t be done until after July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. Money for the work will be found in the FY23 budget, which will be voted on at the Annual Town Meeting on June 11.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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