Best to Buy Smaller, Older, Cheaper

Robert Sullwold’s incendiary criticism of city hall and the firefighters union IAFF Local 689 (“City Stuffs Stockings for AFD Firefighters,” March 27) showed dogged and detailed research. He is to be commended for bringing such numbers to light in the community interest.

As all professional firefighters know, the first thing one does when something is ablaze is to vent and let the smoke out and he does a fine job of this as well. The problem is that what all those numbers add up to, as far as his reasoning goes, amounts to mostly smoke.

The writer missed the final mark in his calculations. Rather than fume about building and buying new and spending more, he should have gone the other way. The obvious choice is to buy smaller, older and cheaper.

Here are some more numbers the writer can explore. Firstly, there is a fine old former fire station just sitting there as someone’s residence on 3014 Jackson St. It could be purchased for a song, compared the cost of building a new, state of the art station to house all those oversized, up-to- date, newfangled contraptions and support equipment.

Now mind you, the doors to house the truck in its bay are only about 10 to 12 feet wide, but that’s no problem. A trip to eBay shows us the obvious solution: a 1920 Stutz Model-A Triple fire engine for a paltry $36,985. It even runs.

And think of how much more fun that would be to look at in the Fourth of July parade than all that oversized, overpowered stuff from the past two decades. Not to mention there are currently no bids on this bargain baby. City Hall can snap it right up.

Then, scoop up a 1951 REO Gold Comet — these ones from yesteryear sure have better names — F22 for a mere $655. It will look great in the driveway of the old, new station. Sure beats the blazes out of the $587,000 (plus $100,000 trade in) Lakewood Fire Department recently paid for its new engine.

And when it comes to communications equipment, why, cyberspace holds more bargains galore!   U.S. Military surplus on eBay hosts a “gen-yoo-wine” RT-196/PRC 6 walkie-talkie radio PRC 6 Field Phone. This is legitimate World War II-era communications gear for when the boys are on the fire line and need to communicate.

All those great descriptive numbers and letters plus the radio itself are priced at just $189.99. Then there is a BC 611 battery support case for the low, low price of $9.99. Note though, it’s Italian, not American, so that could present political procurement issues.

The old fire station also boasts a 100-gallon, hand-pulled, all-metal wheeled fire extinguisher. Sullwold might want to grab that and have it at the ready in case someone has a kitchen fire or something. He can be at the vanguard, leading the charge, with his all-volunteer fire department that requires no city payroll or members’ union dues.

He can even get a 48-star version of Old Glory to hoist proudly up the flagpole that now stands barren at the old place. A 4x6 footer awaits on eBay for just $39.95.

So there we have it. This firebrand public servant can jump on eBay and dig around and meet all of the community’s fire equipment needs for a tiny fraction of what those city hall billionaire Bill Gates-style big-time spenders want to allocate from the budget.

The solution is obvious. Unless, of course, when our guys are called on to risk their lives in a fire.

Oh well, on second thought, maybe the idea that older and smaller is better than newer and bigger and — as the writer suggests — that nothing is better than something, just goes up in flames.

Larry D. Freeman is an Alameda resident.