Civic

New Fire Truck Gets Traditional ‘Push-In’

Hendersonville Fire Chief James Miller, left, and Deputy Chief J.S. Ward win front of the new fire truck’s extraction and other equipment.

HendersonvilleHendersonville firefighters added manpower to their new fire engine’s strong horsepower to park it in a time-honored “push-in” ceremony.

Firefighters in the 19th century pushed their non-motorized fire engines into bays after disconnecting them from horses. Hendersonville firefighters honored this tradition with a “push-in” ceremony to initiate their huge new fire truck. The truck is so heavy that it had to use its motor to move in reverse. People could not possibly push it on their own but they pushed for the ceremony’s sake and augment the motor’s power.

Nearly 50 firefighters and their administrators grunted as they did their best to help move the giant fire truck number three backward into a bay. The firefighters are from both of the city’s fire stations. The ceremony was two months ago on a very sunny day.

The push-in was done at the newer fire station two at 632 Sugarloaf Road near the Dana community. It was held there since there is much, much more room and less traffic than at fire station one that is by Hendersonville High School and busy Five Points, Hendersonville Fire Chief James Miller noted to the Tribune. The truck will be based in station one.

Chief Miller called the new state-of-the-art truck’s addition a “huge deal.”

Smeal Gets the Nod

The truck’s manufacturer is Smeal which is based in Nebraska. Local fire reps on a truck search committee visited its headquarters there as they narrowed their preferences. They liked the vehicle’s performance, endurance, value specifications and Smeal’s solid reputation. Deputy Chief Justin S. Ward said Charlotte and Connestee Falls are among fire departments that told him they are very satisfied with their Smeal trucks and the service that includes sending out a mobile mechanic.

Ward said Smeal trucks handle well going uphill on rugged and varied mountain terrain by having strong engines and with “quick-shifting“ transmissions. He said with removable seat covers it “keeps carcinogens out” of the truck once it is back in the station and cleaned.

Ward led the truck search committee. The search, purchase and delivery time spanned two years.

It costs about $600,000 to buy the 33-foot-long truck and nearly $200,000 more to outfit and prepare it, and a bank low-interest loan was pivotal, emergency officials said. Chief Miller calls the taxpayer-funded Smeal the “People’s Truck.” Ward noted Smeal had the low bid among finalist manufacturers.

The new truck’s tools include extraction devices. They can cut, twist or pull metal of crashed vehicles to create an opening to pull out passengers during rescues. A cribbing tool transfers the weight of a load into a footprint for temporary support during a rescue. Tools also help firefighters cut their way into burning structures. Ward said the fire crew mounted tools onto the truck as part of cost-saving measures.

Ward brought technical know-how to evaluating options for fire trucks and their tools. He started as a fire engineer. He worked up the ranks and was promoted a year ago to deputy chief.

HFD’s fleet includes a 2017 Pierce, a 2014 Pierce and a Tower 9 El ladder truck. HPD’s oldest vehicle is a 1974 LaFrance that was retooled, used until 2003 and then and kept as a historic relic.

The new Smeal 33-foot-long, $600,000 fire truck. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
The new Smeal 33-foot-long, $600,000 fire truck. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Fire Station One Expansion

Hendersonville plans to expand fire station one into the adjacent small Boyd Park that has two tennis courts and Laura E. Corn Mini-Golf — rather than get a much costlier new site and facility, officials said. Councilmember Steve Caraker explained in a citizens’ discussion on Facebook that “fire insurance rates go up in the city” unless the station is enlarged and modernized. “The mini-golf course rework has been in the city’s budget for years … this more than justifies that expense now.”

Plans are to rebuild mini golf at nearby Edwards Park off North Main Street and to construct tennis courts in the city’s Berkeley Park.

“This plan gets both facilities brand new, and saves city taxpayers a cool one million in property acquisition for fire station one,” Caraker stated. He noted budgetary constraints are crucial since the city tax rate likely rises by three cents per $100 of evaluated property and that is “just to cover expenses for operating and employee benefits.”

Community Connect

Henderson County Fire Marshal Michael Ostrander used the fire truck unveiling to tout the new Community Connect program. It revolves around data on a business or on a home’s residents and structures such as a garage apartment. This enables firefighters to know ahead who to look for and where in case of a fire there.

Home categories are for the property, inhabitants (“Your People”), “Your Needs” such as if a resident is wheelchair-bound, and pets. Business structure categories are for the interior layout (“Your Plans”), people, property and contact info.

Ostrander said log-ins are password protected with bank-level encryption. He vowed that data is not shared outside of city fire use. He said he heard good reviews from the City of Asheville that uses such a system.

Community Contact accounts are set up for free and require the site’s address and email and phone number contacts. Ostrander stated that account info is “completely voluntary and based on what you are comfortable sharing.”

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