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Trucks bound for Venezuela

October 29, 1998

FireCabBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In a cavernous building that once housed an iron foundry, yellow crash trucks and blue tankers bound for Venezuela were in various stages of assembly Thursday at FireCab.

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Production at the plant on Derbyshire Street in Chambersburg began about four months ago. Robert W. Hunt, president and chief executive officer of CECO/Taylor Co., which owns FireCab, said the company has a backlog of $5.4 million in orders to deliver between now and the first quarter of 1999.

The company will be hiring more workers in the near future, he said.

The 21 vehicles on order include 10 crash trucks and eight of the water trucks headed for Venezuela, along with three wreckers being built for shipment to that country.

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The crash trucks are for the Venezuelan Air Force, which will use them to foam runways and put out aircraft fires. Senior Chassis Engineer Scott Mohn said the 2,500-gallon water trucks will be used to haul drinking water.

Hunt said most of FireCab's business is overseas, although it has built aerial ladder trucks for fire companies in Pine Beach, N.J., and Falls Creek, Pa. There were a few other ladder trucks on the site, including one having its pumping system tested behind the plant.

Hunt is also vice president and chief operations officer for Chambersburg Engineering, which created CECO/Taylor and bought FireCab earlier this year. Production Manager Garland Kuykendall said FireCab started about five years ago at a small plant on Sunset Boulevard north of Chambersburg.

CECO/Taylor this year also bought the Imperial fire truck chassis line from Pemberton Fabricators Inc., of Rancocas, N.J. That allows the company to build chassis and cabs, Hunter said.

It also purchases cabs, chassis, engines, transmissions and other components from other manufacturers to meet the needs of customers.

The company spent more than $500,000 renovating the 45,000-square-foot foundry building to manufacture fire trucks. That includes an 80-foot-long painting bay, which Mohn said will be ready for operation in about two weeks.

The company now employs 27 in the shop and another eight office workers, according to Hunt. "We're very quickly going to be up to 50 people," he said.

Hunt said the company will soon be hiring welders, painters and assemblers. He said wages would be between $9 and $12 an hour.

The openings could provide jobs for some area workers laid off from Letterkenny Army Depot and Grove Worldwide.

Working one shift, Hunt said the plant has a production capacity of two vehicles a week. Earlier this year, Hunt predicted FireCab would become one of the top 10 manufacturers of fire trucks in the country.

Chambersburg Engineering still maintains its core business of manufacturing computerized forge hammers at the 26-acre complex on Derbyshire Street. The 101-year-old company employs 59 people, Hunt said.

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