A mini fire engine the city wants to house temporarily at San Rafael School until West Pasadena’s Fire Station 39 can be replaced was put through its paces near the Rose Bowl Wednesday.

Fire and city officials have bristled at suggestions the mini-engine was a glorified pickup truck, and showed it has many of the same capabilities as the full-size version – including being attached to fire hydrants.

The fire station on Avenue 64 was closed in April for earthquake safety reasons, and for now the mini-engine is the best option for quick-response local service, Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Costa said.

“It has its limitations,” Costa said before firefighters demonstrated the mini-engine’s pumping-power on a hillside opposite Brookside Golf Course. “It’s different – but it’s not different” from the full-size version.

Instead of pumping 1,500 gallons per minute, it pumps 300 gallons, Costa said, plus the hose is shorter and it provides only basic life-support medical equipment.

“It’s a degradation of service, there’s no disputing that,” Costa said, adding that Station 39 got 416 calls for service in 2010.

“But when you look at what we have now, which is nothing, having this will give us a reasonable response time,” he said. “And it does provide a level of service greater than nothing at all.”

The fire department acquired the mini-engine in 2000 specifically to tackle brush fires in hard-to-reach areas, said Fire Captain Tony Bagan of Fire Station 38, where it’s now housed. It’s often used for special events, he said, including Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game duty each New Year.

The fire department’s plan for the temporary facility – which has produced some neighborhood opposition – is to station a two-person 24-hour crew on the lower San Rafael School playground.

There’s no time frame yet, fire department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said, but the goal is to have it on-site early next year.

The West Pasadena Residents Association is still evaluating the plan, long-time board member Vince Farhat said Wednesday.

“We are, of course, very concerned about the closure of the station, and we’re monitoring the situation very closely,” Farhat said. “And we did take some board action” at the Sept. 14 meeting.

Specifically, he said, the board wants to make sure the principal and staff of San Rafael school are directly involved in the “nuts and bolts” of drafting any agreement on the temporary site.

“I think the sentiment of the board is the devil is in the details,” Farhat said. “The board members are still evaluating the proposal.”
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