Even though fire departments across the country are cutting budgets and revamping their service plans, the largest fire truck manufacturer in the country is investing for the future.
Winnipeg’s Fort Garry Fire Trucks has been making fire trucks since 1919, and while it may be making fewer 100-foot platform aerial vehicles, it’s increasing the range and variety of vehicles it makes to accommodate every conceivable configuration of service style.
The company just spent about $7 million on a new 50,000-square foot plant in the Brookside Industrial Park West, increased its workforce by about 20 per cent and is ready to meet all the requirements of more streamlined fire services throughout North America.
Rick Suche, Fort Garry’s president and owner, said three years ago production shifted away from high-end trucks and the company introduced a new product line to compete with some of the less expensive models coming in from the U.S.
More than 60 per cent of fire department calls across North America are not fire related so it makes sense that fire departments would need a different type of vehicle to adequately respond.
Fort Garry has about 20 different models and 5,000 options with prices ranging from $100,000 to $1 million.
Suche is determined to keep Fort Garry ahead of the competition — as it is, its closest competition is about half the size of the Winnipeg company — and it remains true to its roots, serving cold-climate fire departments. It currently is working on an order for eight trucks for the Winnipeg Fire Department.
"We grew up building for northern Canada," he said. "Our trucks run at 70 below and the windows stay de-fogged."
He says that’s compared to low-end imports built in Florida that don’t have proper heaters and quit working when the weather gets too cold.
Fort Garry Fire Trucks, formerly a division of Fort Garry Industries, has about 100 employees.