Poulsbo shuffles fire engines after main ride breaks

The Poulsbo Fire Department posted this photo of its fire engine being towed to Tacoma on its Facebook page.  - contributed
The Poulsbo Fire Department posted this photo of its fire engine being towed to Tacoma on its Facebook page.
— image credit: contributed

POULSBO — Santa is known for making a special visit each year to Poulsbo and the North Kitsap peninsula. But this year, he hit a bump in the road when his red ride broke down.

Luckily, Poulsbo’s firefighters had a spare.

St. Nick’s annual tour of the area’s neighborhoods — courtesy the Poulsbo Fire Department — was ready to begin earlier this month. A Poulsbo fire engine, Santa’s courtesy ride while in town, was fitted as his sleigh and decked with lights. But that was before the department’s main fire engine broke down.

“It broke a centering pin that holds the axle to a spring,” Deputy Chief Bruce Peterson said.

In other words, the fire engine was having difficulty driving straight.

“We noticed it, coming back from a training event, that it was ‘crabbing the road,’” he said. “It wasn’t straight with the truck, it was going a bit sideways.”

The engine, a 2001 Pierce model, was loaded onto a large tow truck bed and transported to a Tacoma auto shop.

Peterson said that the department’s own mechanic is usually up for such a job, but he has been tied up with other vehicles at the station.

“It’s a pretty major job to get that truck up in the air and replace the parts and get it repaired,” Peterson said.

In the meantime, the department engaged in a shuffle between the five engines spread between its main and volunteer stations.

A 1992 model is standing in as the main engine. It was originally the engine slated to be Santa’s escort while in Poulsbo. Santa’s gear was moved to yet another ride.

It was a bit more of a decision process than simply moving around trucks and engines, Peterson noted. Different engines have different capacities.

No matter what happened, however, the department was determined to get Santa around town, especially since the tour collects food for Fishline.

“Our back-up plan for the sleigh was putting it in the back of a pickup truck,” Peterson said. “It’s become quite a popular event.”

Despite the engine trouble, Santa made his journey around Poulsbo, collecting food and taking a few photos.

“This year was actually our best season yet,” said Jody Matson of the Poulsbo Fire Department.

“With the lack of rainfall in December, we did not even have to cancel one night. That hasn’t happened in

20 years!”

The incident highlights an unrelated issue of local departments’ aging engine fleets, and the ability for emergency services to stay up-to-date.

“That is a concern for us,” said Michele Laboda of North Kitsap Fire & Rescue.

“That situation is getting worse as they get older. We are struggling with the same concerns as Poulsbo Fire with declining revenues,” she said.

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