LEWISTON — Rust on the city’s fire engine number 5 prompted councilors Tuesday to fast-track plans to replace it.

Fire Chief Paul LeClair said he had planned to replace the 16 year old firetruck next year, ordering its replacement in July and taking delivery a year from now. Tuesday, councilors agreed to let LeClair order the truck in January, taking delivery early this summer.

A recent inspection by Northeast Emergency Apparatus changed his mind, LeClair said.

“We’ve known for three years that the truck was nearing the end of its normal life,” LeClair said. Purchased in 1993, the fire engine was designed to be operational for 15 years.

“But we didn’t realize the extent of the rust until it was too late,” he said.

The inspection found serious corrosion on the truck’s frame rails, the structure that supports the cab, the chassis and the axles. It’s still safe for use, according to the report, but needs to be repaired or replaced.

LeClair said he favors replacing the truck. A new fire engine pumper is budgeted to cost between $400,000 and $425,000.

“We’ve been planning to replace it, and a new truck has been included in our capital investment plan,” LeClair said. “The rust is in such a place that repairs would be more difficult and expensive to perform. And realistically, we’d only get a few months additional life for spending that money.”

Councilors on Tuesday night agreed. Councilor Denis Theriault said he had the opportunity to inspect the truck himself.

“There is a serious separation between the frame rails and the chassis and the rust is bad enough you can pull it off by hand,” Theriault said, concerned the truck would fail on its way to a fire, potentially injuring firefighters and civilians.

There’s little chance of that, LeClair said. The truck did pass state inspection and is considered roadworthy. The truck is kept at Lewiston’s Main Street station and serves as the first responder to emergency calls in Lewiston’s northern neighborhoods.

“We just need to keep a much closer eye on it, now that we’re aware of the problem,” LeClair said. “We’ll go back and inspect it every two months, to make sure it’s not getting worse.”

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On-duty crew from the Main Street substation stand in front of Lewiston Fire Department’s engine 5 on Wednesday. From left are Lt. Bill Soucy, firefighter Bill Farrell and firefighter Bill Bergeron.

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