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Firefighters answer call for help in Tennessee

February 21, 2000

Donated truckBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Last year a struggling fire company in rural Tennessee sent a one-sentence letter asking the Mercersburg, Montgomery, Peters and Warren Volunteer Fire Co. to donate its old ladder truck.

cont. from news page

Today the Campbell County Rural Fire Service in LaFollette, Tenn., will take delivery of the 1963 truck, a check for $3,430 and other donated equipment.

The truck was loaded onto a trailer in front of the Mercersburg fire hall Monday to begin its 530-mile journey to the mountainous county in northeast Tennessee.

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"That old truck gave us some good service," Fire Chief Nick Barbuzanes said a few minutes before it pulled away. The company bought it used about 14 years ago, but replaced it with a 90-foot ladder truck in 1998, according to Deputy Fire Chief Gregg Cerrone.

"We've been trying to sell it since May. We were asking $15,000, but the highest offer we got was $5,000," Barbuzanes said.

The truck, with its 65-foot ladder, was advertised on the Internet, in a national truck sales catalogue and in Pennsylvania Firemen Magazine, he said.

Last fall Don McGuire, the Campbell County Rural Fire Service assistant chief, saw an advertisement and sent off the brief letter. Cerrone said his company's board of directors approved the donation, but there was another hurdle to clear.

"It turns out they couldn't afford the $750 to haul it down there," Cerrone said.

Barbuzanes credited articles in The Morning Herald with getting the community involved in helping the Tennessee firefighters. Donations ranged from $15 to $750, well exceeding transportation costs.

The Always There Hook & Ladder Co. in Waynesboro, Pa., donated money, as did the Metal Township Fire and Ambulance Co. in Franklin County, Barbuzanes said. The Halfway Fire Co. in Washington County gave money, as did the Lisbon (Md.) Volunteer Fire Co. near Baltimore in Howard County.

The Clear Spring (Md.) Volunteer Fire Department donated turnout gear, six sets of breathing apparatus and other equipment, Barbuzanes said.

Even the truck's transportation was donated. Hoffman Transport of Greencastle, Pa., donated the tractor-trailer and fuel to get the truck to Tennessee.

Eric Harry, a driver for Hoffman and a Mercersburg firefighter, donated two days of his time to drive the rig. Hoffman Driver Personnel Manager Louis Dennis, a Needmore (Pa.) Volunteer Fire Co. firefighter, volunteered to go along as assistant driver.

The money raised will help the Campbell County Rural Fire Service build a firehouse, McGuire said. The company keeps its two 1969 pumper trucks in donated bays in LaFollette, but it plans to build a $25,000 facility about 13 miles outside of town to reduce response time.

McGuire said Monday his company serves sparsely populated regions of the 480-square-mile county. Fire trucks have to negotiate rough mountain roads and often arrive too late to save a house or barn.

McGuire said residents would hear about the generosity of this area's firefighters at a community meeting Monday night. "There's no way we'd ever be able to afford a ladder truck," he said.

The donation comes at a good time. On Jan. 23 McGuire was at the wheel of his company's 1976 pumper when it skidded off an ice-covered mountain road. The accident totaled the truck.

Despite its age, Barbuzanes said the truck has less than 12,000 miles on the odometer and the engine was replaced several years ago.

Since the company wasn't going to get its asking price, Cerrone said, "It made as much sense to give it away to someone who can use it."

"This is great, this company answering the call for that company," Dennis said.

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