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Fire departments across the metro stuck waiting for new trucks and ambulances

The Ankeny Fire Department said new ambulances would usually take about nine months to get delivered. Now, it's taking three times as long.

ANKENY, Iowa — If you've tried to buy a new or used car recently, you know, it's not as easy as it used to be. Right now, fire departments across Iowa are feeling a similar pain.

"I would say the last year, it's gotten really tough to get a vehicle in any reasonable amount of time," said Ankeny Fire Department Chief Jim Clack.

Reasonable used to mean nine months, Clack said. Now, lead times are three times that.

"We ordered an ambulance in March of [2021], so a little over a year ago. Our latest update from the manufacturer is they hope to be able to deliver it to us a year from now."

The holdup, he said is the chassis firefighting apparatus are built on. Complicating matters for Ankeny is how fast the city is growing and building new fire stations, including one set to open in a few years.

"We're actually ordering vehicles now that will be used two and three years from now," Clack added.

Down the fire line, there is yet another impact for smaller departments with fewer apparatus as they deal with the unexpected.

"The ones that are having the most problems are the ones that either have wrecked or crashed or just plain the pumper or apparatus wore out, and they can't use it anymore," said Jewell Fire and Rescue Chief Duane Hendrickson. "It's gonna be really hard to replace that thing."

Costs are rising, too. According to Chief Hendrickson, the long lead times are making prices unpredictable.

"The manufacturers of apparatus will not guarantee a chassis price," he said. "So it's pretty hard to budget not knowing the end result."

Both fire chiefs say things eventually will get better. When is still the question.

"There's no light at the end of the tunnel yet, as far as lead time for vehicle ordering," Clack said.

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