The Cloquet Area Fire District Board approved the purchase of a $505,000 fire truck during its meeting Wednesday, Nov. 17.

The new fire truck will be delivered in early 2023, and the funds for the truck will come out of the district's capital improvement plan, which included a new fire truck in 2022.

As of right now, the district does not have a reserve fire truck. The new truck is slated to go to Cloquet Area Fire District Station 2, allowing for the current fire truck to be Station 1’s reserve truck.

The new truck will be able to seat four firefighters, whereas the current truck at Station 2 can only fit two.

Fire captain Chad Vermeersch said the new truck would have a lifespan of 20 years, and the ladder from the truck would have a lifespan of 30 years.

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“It is about as economically friendly as we can make an engine at this point,” he said. “The price increases are absolutely astronomical right now.”

The board had to make a decision on the issue during its meeting as the manufacturer was holding the price for one last day. If the board decided against purchasing the truck, the price would have risen by almost $60,000.

Chairperson Bob DeCaigny was tentative about approving the purchase as it would be another increase in the district.

“It just seems to me in our almost 13 years of existence, I haven’t seen a whole lot of reduction in equipment or buildings,” he said.

However, in order to save the district $60,000 in the future, with inflation and price changes in manufacturing, DeCaigny felt it would best suit the district to make the purchase now.

"When we hear in another month that we will have to spend more ... for the same vehicle that is a huge consideration," he said.

Board member Sheila Lamb, who is also a Cloquet City Councilor, said the city had seen similar issues with equipment and purchases in the past year.

“We are seeing the same types of jumps with costs, and we drug our feet a little bit on one and it definitely changed the cost of some of the police cars,” she said. “The delays seem to be getting farther and farther out.”

The board also discussed the issues with hospital diversions and the added strain on the system the current coronavirus spike has caused.

Battalion chief Jesse Buhs presented the fire chief’s report to the board and highlighted the increased number of calls the district has gotten this year.

“The ambulance has been busier than most of us have ever seen it,” he said.

According to district figures, there have been 2,755 calls to date in 2021, the most out of the last five years.

The district is reaching out to the governor and legislative leaders and was a part of a Minnesota Ambulance Association letter to the leaders that was submitted Oct. 25.

While the coronavirus surge is out of the CAFD's control, they are hoping to get some assistance from legislators.

“The first thing you have to do is to make sure the larger group understands there is an issue,” DeCaigny said. “That is ultimately the phase we are in.”