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Gilbert measures progress of new electric fire truck after a month on the road

Fire Chief Rob Duggan says they've already seen notable improvements
Gilbert electric fire truck
Posted at 7:37 AM, Dec 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-05 09:37:39-05

GILBERT, AZ — Not only is it a first for Arizona, but the Gilbert Fire Department is among the first in the nation to get an electric fire truck.

It's been in action for about a month at the city's busiest fire station.

The goal is to see if it's safer and more efficient before potentially converting more of the fleet.

Fire Chief Rob Duggan says they've already seen notable improvements.

He says the electric truck moves faster out of the firehouse and restarting at stop lights than any of the other trucks. He says those are critical seconds that add up when you're waiting in an emergency.

"It's about delivering four people within four minutes to anybody's door that needs you," said Chief Duggan.

The truck is a virtual hybrid - so it can switch to diesel if the battery runs out, but it's designed to last two hours and can travel up to 90 miles per charge. The chief says most calls are within five miles and the truck is hooked up to the charger on each return.

Notably quieter than a diesel engine, Chief Duggan says the truck makes for a more efficient work environment as radio traffic no longer has to compete with the engine as they relay how many hoses have to be connected and when to turn on the water.

"You're on the end of a nozzle and you're expecting to get 150 gallons and are only getting 50 — that could be a tremendously dangerous situation for a firefighter and that engineer is going to hear those communications better to make sure they can troubleshoot what the problem is," said Chief Duggan.

Loud diesel engines have also proven to pump out cancer-causing fumes that firefighters are clouded by even after a fire is out and can seep into the fire station when they return, even with a good HVAC system. Now there are zero emissions.

"One of the sins of my generation of firefighters is that too many of us are dying from cancers that we acquired because of our occupation," he said.

The chief says the cost-benefit is what they'll keep studying to determine if an all-electric fleet really is the future.

In addition to the cost of the rig, which he says was lower than the recent purchase of a new diesel truck, they'll factor in the cost of maintenance on diesel versus electric and also look to see how energy production changes in the extreme heat of the summer.