HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) — Nearly four months after a wildfire destroyed dozens of homes in Hutchinson, the Hutchinson Fire Department chief says the department will have to wait even longer to replace damaged equipment.
One of the HFD’s brush trucks valued at $250,000 was destroyed in the Cottonwood Complex Fire in March 2022. The biggest difficulty in replacing that truck is purchasing the base frame or chassis.
While the department currently has four base frames on order, what would normally take three to four months to replace now has an estimated wait time between six months to two years.
“In my 34 years on the job, I’ve never seen this extent,” Chief Steve Beer said.
From replacing tires to base frames, Beer says supply chain issues have forced his department to rethink budgeting.
“The way we do business now has totally changed,” Beer said. “We are doing more upfront in January and February with our purchases. We are frontloading on getting that stuff ahead of time, so we’re not on the back end of things trying to wait two years for, you know, a piece of equipment.”
“You’re looking at about two years … just to get a baseline truck,” Joe Kitzman, office manager with Hays Fire Rescue Sales and Services, said.
Kitzman sells fire equipment across the state. He says supply chain issues are causing him to build extra time into fire department contracts.
“[In] September of 2021, we received a bid for this truck — the chassis isn’t even supposed to be built until October of this year,” Kitzman said.
According to Kitzman, many of his suppliers are slapping surcharges onto orders even after contracts are signed.
“We’re just kind of at their mercy at this point,” he said.
Kitzman says rural fire departments could be hit even harder financially.
“For grant purposes and whatnot, trucks have to be built on a new chassis,” he said.
KSN News 3 reached out to Pierce Manufacturing, which supplies the fleet for Hutchinson and other area fire departments. A spokesperson was unavailable for comment.