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Henderson firm grows its firetruck refurbishment business

Firetrucks Unlimited has expanded to a larger facility to meet the growing demand for refurbished fire and ambulance vehicles, even though sales are yet to be local.

Co-owner Brian Reyburn said the Henderson-based company has done bodywork and equipment sales for the Henderson Fire Department and has discussed possible refurbishments with Clark County and Las Vegas, but nothing has been sold yet.

“We haven’t done that quite yet for the local departments,” Reyburn said. “They like to buy new still. We’ve been trying.”

Firetrucks Unlimited moved into a 23,000-square-foot warehouse southwest of American Pacific Drive and North Stephanie Street in Henderson, moving from their 16,000-square-foot building in the Valley Auto Mall area. The company has grown from three employees to more than 40.

The company did 30 refurbishments last year, sold 12 used trucks, rebuilt 10 ambulances and built five fire vehicles. With the new space, Reyburn said they should move 80 to 90 vehicles through production this year.

The family business was started in 2007 by Reyburn’s father and company president, Stuart, a former firefighter for a defense contractor at the Nevada Test Site. Reyburn’s brother, David, is in charge of marketing.

Overhauling the vehicles can include rebuilding engines, transmissions, drive lines, anything mechanical, upgrading the safety or improving technology for between $150,000 and $200,000.

A new fire engine costs about $600,000 and a ladder truck can be as much as $1.2 million, Reyburn said. The company can refurbish a ladder truck for $350,000.

Reyburn said refurbishing can add 10 years to a vehicle’s life and carries a one-year warranty. The life of new vehicles is eight to 10 years, with a one-year warranty for nonengine components.

To save money during the economic downturn, large municipalities such as Henderson and Las Vegas have turned to extending the life of city vehicles as far as they can before buying new. However, fire emergency vehicles undergo such heavy use in larger municipalities that it becomes necessary to buy new.

Las Vegas Fire Department spokesman Tim Szymanski said the city maintains and uses its vehicles until they are beyond repair and cannot be short a vehicle while waiting for a refurbishment. According to the Firetrucks Unlimited website, a refurbishment can take four to six months.

“At 100,000 miles you start to worry about the frames,” said Szymanski, adding the city has some new trucks on order. “Do they have cracks in them in the welds or anywhere.”

Szymanski also mentioned the city’s desire to meet current National Fire Protection Agency standards.

Henderson spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said the reason the city buys new is because the vehicles will meet current National Fire Protection Agency and Environmental Protection Agency regulations. The department bought two new trucks in December 2012 and has one on order.

Reyburn said there is an agency standard regulating refurbishments that states the work must meet the agency’s specifications of the year the fire engine was originally built. Firetrucks Unlimited tries to bring older models up to new vehicle standards but sometimes cannot for various reasons.

While the local municipalities have yet to buy used or refurbish with Firetrucks Unlimited, towns in Nye and Lincoln counties have used the company.

A refurbished former Henderson 19-year-old engine pumper truck was recently delivered to Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Services for $150,000, a discount of as much as $350,000 compared to buying a new one, Reyburn said.

“It’s like they’re getting a brand new truck for a third of the price,” Reyburn said. “We double the life of the truck.”

The lack of local business has not hindered company growth. It recently signed a five-year deal to refurbish emergency vehicles for the Department of Energy in Mercury and has had a standing contract with the Navy.

Reyburn said the military has a tradition of refurbishing equipment, which gave his father the idea of bringing the business to local governments.

“Before the economic meltdown of 2008, refurbishment was a concept that was in play by the military, and that’s how the company started doing overhauls for the military,” Reyburn said.

The company has refurbished more than 50 fire vehicles for the Navy, shipping them as far away as Afghanistan, Africa, Spain and Italy.

Municipal business has picked up during the past four years, including shipping three vehicles to Little Rock, Ark., another to Colorado Springs, Colo., and departments in Arizona and Utah.

Firetrucks Unlimited also maintains a 10,000-square-foot paint shop, and a six-acre storage yard to run its business.

Contact Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3882. Find him on Twitter: @KnightlyGrind.

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