Air quality grant funds fire engine emission reduction upgrades

Twenty fire engines from departments throughout Buncombe County – including four trucks from the Asheville Fire Department – have been outfitted with equipment that drastically cuts back on their emissions of particulate matter, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide.

The upgrades, announced November 19 at Fire Station One in downtown Asheville, come thanks to a $31,500 North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources grant awarded to the Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency.

“These retrofits are an example of the kinds of reductions we need to see in the future,” said Sheila Holman, director of the N.C. Division of Air Quality. “Congratulations to all of the partners in this project.”

The engines, all of which were purchased before new required emissions standards took effect in 2007, were fitted with diesel oxidation catalysts, which reduce particulate matter by 20%, hydrocarbon emissions by 66%, and carbon monoxide emissions by 41%. Fire trucks responding to emergencies idle while on the scene since they need to operate onboard equipment and be ready to move at a moment’s notice. Reduction of emissions means better air quality for firefighters exposed to exhaust and the region as a whole.

The upgrades are also cost savers, and not only because the work was done completely with grant funding, said Ashley Featherstone, from the WNC Regional Air Quality Agency, because they prevent expensive replacement of trucks, all of which have a life span of about 20 years. The four City of Asheville engines outfitted with the equipment are the only diesel trucks in the fleet that are older that the 2007 emission regulations.

“This is just a wonderful partnership we are proud to be a part of,” said Asheville Fire Chief Scott Burnette. “Asheville City Council has challenged each city department to reduce its emissions. This gift is a valuable way we are able to achieve those goals.”

The City of Asheville also provided its Fleet Maintenance garage and lift for use during the outfitting of the 20 fire engines, Burnette said.

Fire departments participating in the partnership include: City of Asheville, Broad River, Black Mountain, Enka-Candler, Skyland, Swannanoa, and West Buncombe.