Real firepower

February 10, 2008|By DON AINES

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. - Chaplain Clarence Branson said a prayer for it, junior firefighters baptized it and members of the Shepherdstown Fire Department gave it a push into its new home Saturday.

Rescue Engine 3, a 2007 Pierce Dash with an array of modern firefighting features and a price tag of $725,000, was welcomed by about 70 department members and guests. It was also time to say goodbye to Rescue 3 and Engine 3-1, two older pieces of equipment that the new apparatus will replace.

"We start to personalize our equipment. We humanize them," Chief Ross Morgan said. "Just keep in mind that we are retiring old friends here."

The 1989 rescue vehicle and the 1985 engine were old friends that served the community for two decades, about the same length of service the department expects to get out of the new rescue engine, Morgan said.


The dedication ceremony included rolling out the old and rolling in the new. Before Rescue Engine 3 could enter the station, the junior firefighters each took turns hosing down the new engine in a tradition know as a "wetdown," something like the christening of a new ship.

Past fire chief Leon Catrow had the honor of being behind the wheel of the truck as members of the department put their shoulders to its gleaming sides and pushed it under roof.

The list of features on Rescue Engine 3 is long. Without all the added equipment, the basic apparatus cost $485,000, Morgan said.

It has interior seating for eight, an 830-gallon water tank, a pumping rate of 2,000 gallons a minute, a deluge gun that can blast a fire with 1,000 gallons a minute, a 30-gallon foam tank for attacking vehicle and chemical fires and a 9,000-watt light tower to illuminate a fire or accident scene. It also carries hundreds of feet of hose, ladders, tools for vehicle extractions and other rescues, and absorbents to soak up chemical spills.

Department President Andrew Arnold said the new machine is a leap in firefighting technology. He compared it to the horse-drawn steam pumper the department received in 1885 to replace its hand-pumped cart.

When the community calls, the firefighters respond, but that is "a two-way street," Arnold said. The department depends on the support of the community, which has responded to help pay for operating expenses and purchases such as Rescue Engine 3, he said.

Morgan estimated 85 percent of the department's budget comes from fundraisers and community support.

"We're constantly raising money for everything," he said.

Those retired pieces of equipment probably will see another career with another department or fire company, said Marshall DeMerritt, the department's public information officer.

"We're taking bids for them," DeMerritt said. The retired vehicles are completely functional and will be useful to a fire company or departnment that cannot raise the money for a new engine.

"It still does everything it's supposed to do," he said, pointing to Engine 3-1.

Rescue Engine 3 will do most of those tasks better, plus a few more, DeMerritt said.

"It's really going to be a benefit to us and the community," he said.

ยท Rescue Engine 3 can pump 2,000 gallons of water a minute. Its modern weaponry includes a deluge gun as well as a 9,000-watt light tower to illuminate a fire or accident scene.

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