On the way to provide assistance fighting the Rocky Fire in Northern California, the Idyllwild Fire Department’s brush truck 621 had “catastrophic engine failure,” said Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz.

The IFPD commission held an emergency meeting Monday morning, Aug. 3, and unanimously granted Reitz authority to authorize repairs up to $40,000 to the truck.

On the way to the fire Wednesday, July 29, near Porterville in Tulare County, the truck’s engine began to overheat due to the fan clutch failure. This, however, caused a water hose to blow that damaged the heat sensor, thus eliminating the fail-safe engine shutdown.

“It massively overheated, melting several parts including the head gasket and oil pan,” Reitz said.

The Porterville Navistar dealer has not been successful finding a new engine, so in order to get the engine back into service quickly and back to Idyllwild, Reitz may authorize re-building the engine and parts.

“It has been a long and vicious fire season. The longer it sits the less able we are to assist on any fire and reduces protection here,” he said. Even if he grants approval for re-building the engine, it may be 10 days before the brush truck is able to return to Idyllwild.

The initial estimate is $30,000, he told the commission, and added, “I’m not willing to wait 24 hours to make a decision.”

If the final repairs exceeded the authorized limit of $40,000, Reitz will bring a new request to the commission.

The IFPD crew stayed at the fire scene to assist another crew.