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New firetruck welcomed by Antietam Fire Co.

February 16, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

The first official run for Antietam Fire Co.'s new truck Sunday evening in Hagerstown gave fire apparatus operator Russell Daiello "bragging rights" for being the first to drive the engine, he said with a laugh.

And though the truck was not used to extinguish any flames because the reported chimney fire at 6 p.m. turned out to be a minor boiler malfunction, the truck now is in operation and capable of much more, he said.

"Everybody hopes they get the first call on the new engine," Daiello said. "You want to take it on its maiden voyage."

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The truck is one of three new vehicles going into operation for the Hagerstown Fire Department in February. Three companies of the Hagerstown Fire Department - Antietam, Independent Junior Fire Engine Co. and South Hagerstown Fire Co. - have new trucks replacing engines that no longer were compliant with National Fire Protection Association regulations.

"We recognized there was a problem with the equipment we had," said Antietam Fire Co. James Sprecher Jr. "It was really a group effort between the city and the three companies."

Sprecher said the trucks are custom-built for the needs of each company.

Sprecher said the length and width of his company's truck was tailored to its Summit Avenue firehouse. The trucks also are specifically designed with Hagerstown's narrow alleys in mind, with roll-up instead of pull-out doors to storage areas and heightened passenger doors that, when opened, clear the roofs of most cars, he said.

Some of the new truck's improvements over its 23-year-old predecessor include more horsepower, and better turning radius and storage areas. It also can transport eight firefighters instead of four.

"It's tremendous," Sprecher said with a wide grin. "We're going to wash it every time it goes out until the newness wears off."

That truck also has a secondary logo painted on the back doors to signify to which engine company it is assigned. The Engine 2 symbol includes two axes in front of flames, the number 343 to commemorate firefighters lost on Sept. 11, 2001, and the words "The Deuce."

"It gives them a little bit of extra pride," Hagerstown Fire Department Deputy Chief Ron Horn said.

The Antietam and Independent Junior companies' engines went into operation Saturday, while the South Hagerstown Fire Co. truck will be unleashed in five days, Horn said.

Each truck cost about approximately $270,000, Horn said. He said half the cost was paid for by the city and the other half by the volunteer companies, which used proceeds from gaming in the county.

Horn said each of the county's 27 fire departments receives about $40,000 from the Washington County Gaming Association, which collects a portion of tip-jar proceeds for the fire department and charitable organizations.

Horn said the new trucks were becoming more of a necessity every year.

"They (the old trucks) were becoming a maintenance nightmare," he said.

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