By Sarah Smith

Would you buy a used fire truck from a used fire truck salesman?

Or to use the politically correct euphemism, “pre-owned.”

Park Rapids Fire Department officials did just that a week ago, traveling to Napa, Cal.

It was a deal too good to be true. Or was it?

“We went out there and were very happy with the truck,” Chief Donn Hoffman said. “It was a better truck than what we thought it would be, but when we went to bring it home it had some engine troubles.”

The ladder truck broke down on the side of the road. The city had just purchased the vehicle to add to its fleet. The custom-built truck was to have been a good addition to Park Rapids’ inventory, after taking possession of a custom-built engine truck last year.

“We’re not exactly totally positive what’s going to happen with that,” Hoffman said.

“When we found we had some engine trouble with it, the City of Napa Fire Department came and picked it up. They said they’d refund our money and fix it and they’d call us when it was done,” Hoffman said.

But the hook has been set.

“If they call us up, we’re willing to negotiate with them as to what the expenses were because really, we stole that truck,” Hoffman said, speaking like a horse trader.

“It’s worth way more,” he added. “We paid $50,650 or something like that and it’s probably worth $150,000 if it’s worth a penny. It’s a dandy.”

And Hoffman doubts Napa was pulling a fast one.

If the city had knowingly been unloading a lemon (the truck is red) it would not have agreed to refund the money and expenses.

But Hoffman doesn’t want to let a good deal slip away.

“We don’t have to take it,” he said. “They’ve got a new one that’s the spittin’ image of it.”

And for the price of some repairs, mechanic and firefighter Bob Meier, who accompanied Hoffman on the trip, still thinks it’s a good deal.

Time will tell. If the truck had been lemon yellow like most new trucks, that might have been a sign.