The San Diego Fire Department announced on Feb. 10, 2004, that it is contemplating leasing 50 new fire engines rather than buying them, according the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper.Proponents of the leasing idea say that the fleet would be rapidly modernized — more than 40 percent of the city's engines are at least 12 years old — and that the city would save money if the vehicles were leased instead of bought. Officials said they would not be able to determine just how much the city would save by leasing the engines until bids are solicited. According to the paper, a fire engine can cost $350,000 or more. Fire Chief Jeff Bowman said maintenance would be easier because replacement parts would be supplied by a single manufacturer. The savings would go beyond the purchase price. Maintenance costs would likely be less in newer, leased engines than in department-owned engines that, by policy, are supposed to be kept for at least 12 years. Some of the department's aging vehicles are out of service for long periods. Parts can be hard to get. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that front-line apparatus be limited to 12 years of service. More than a third of the Fire Department's vehicles — 41 percent — are beyond the 12-year-limit. The plan does not include projections from the sale of the department's older engines. Some engines could serve as reserve vehicles.