ELIZABETHTOWN — The 18-month wait is over. On Wednesday, the Elizabethtown Fire Department took possession of its new, custom-made fire truck, the planning and engineering for which began in January 2015.
“We’re very pleased,” said Fire Chief Nick West. “It’s been a long process.
“It looks like a regular truck,” he continued, “but the features on it are distinctive to us. We said, for example, that it needed to fit in our fire station, have a short wheel base so that it could make tight turns, and carry a lot of equipment. Everything on it was designed for the work that we do here, with our department in mind.”
The truck is equipped, among other things, with water intake valves on each side, three sets of LED scene lights that West joked would make neighbors shield their eyes but would be of great benefit to the firemen, a mechanical trash line feeder, and a switch that would maintain pressure while the truck is parked so that the air brakes would release in a timely manner when the department is called out for service. The enclosed bay is equipped with a computer tray with internet capabilities so that firemen can access call information while en route or on site. Color-coded hoses will allow for easy communication between firefighters.
While showing off the truck, West kept saying, “Their feet are on the ground” while pointing out such features as a 400-foot primary hose container on the front of the truck, a 24-foot extension ladder housed in the tank and accessible via a chest-high door on the back (the placement for which also allows the sides to be utilized for equipment storage), and an additional custom-built hose compartment on the side which houses six hoses commonly used by the department. The first, second, third and fourth hoses are all within reach, he said.
“I want them to keep their feet on the ground for the first 15 to 20 minutes,” said West.
On the inside of every door is the message “Everyone goes home,” because, West said, he wants safety to be the first thought as firefighters climb into the truck and their last thought as they exit the truck.
“I don’t want to be one of those chiefs that has to make the dreaded call,” West said, “so this truck was designed with safety as a priority.”
In addition to safety, the truck also has the benefit of raising the insurance rating for the department, which will lower commercial insurance rates. The residential rating for the department is currently as high as it can go. The rating process, because it covers the entire station and not just the new truck, may take a year or two to complete.
The new engine also doubles as a rescue vehicle, and West said that his goal is to become certified as a medium rescue station with the state. For that reason, the truck is equipped with storage capabilities and a large engine that can handle the added weight. Training for the required certification for staff begins the weekend of July 8.
“We’re really excited about the certification,” West said. “It’s needed badly here.”
The oldest engine will now be considered a required reserve unit, and the truck that the new engine is replacing will be maintained by the department for use as a ladder truck, both of which will bolster the insurance rating.
Now that the department has possession of the truck, the staff is currently in the process of adding the equipment, such as hoses, nozzles, axes and other tools, to the truck, which will be representing the Elizabethtown Fire Department at the State Firefighters’ Conference in August in Charlotte.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.