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Officials of Clarence Fire District 1 are hoping taxpayers next week will vote to authorize the use of hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a new fire truck.

Dave Metzger, commissioner of equipment for the fire company, said the district needs $380,000 for a pumper to replace one manufactured in 1976.

Fire officials already passed a resolution to spend as much as $180,000 of the company's money. But they also are asking taxpayers to approve allowing the fire company to borrow as much as $200,000 toward the purchase.

The referendum is from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday in the Main Fire Station, 10355 Main St.

If it passes, the fire company could have the equipment by the end of the year, Metzger said.

The company's 1976 Ward La-France pumper, one of two in the stable, is "well beyond the life span of a reliable pumper," Metzger said. "It would make a good reserve pump or a pump for a company just starting out, but the normal life span is 15 to 20 years, and that piece of equipment is approaching 26. It's time to replace it."

The truck can't be upgraded because the components are so old they wouldn't meet current standards set by the National Fire Protection Association, officials said.

"We can't rebuild it because the hard components, the electrical lines and some of the electronics can't be adapted to current technology. It would not meet requirements," he said. "Imagine the liability."

Safety is another issue.

"If your 1976 car breaks down, you get a motel. If a pumper breaks down, somebody could die," Metzger said.

Increased calls over the years also are a factor.

According to an annual report released by the Town of Amherst Central Fire Alarm Office -- the agency that dispatches 16 volunteer fire companies in the towns of Amherst, Clarence and Newstead and the villages of Akron and Williamsville -- the Clarence Fire Company responded to 27 more calls in 2000 than it did in 1999.

"That pumper goes a hundred times a year for all types of calls, and that's increased in the last five years from 85 to the 100 range," Metzger said.

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