Ferrisburgh’s new firetruck outfitted to get the job done

FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh Volunteer Fire Department last month took delivery of a new pumper fire truck that is making a tremendous difference in how efficiently and safely department firefighters can deal with fires and other incidents, according to Fire Chief Bill Wager.
“It’s a big step forward,” Wager said. “The truck was designed primarily for safety and enhanced service, and our ability to provide more services from the same vehicle.”
The truck set the town of Ferrisburgh back $397,000, plus about $60,000 in related equipment and fix-up costs.
Actually, the burden was lighter, thanks to a $100,000 from the Hoehl Family Foundation, which has a principal who lives in Ferrisburgh.
“They’re very nice people, and they’ve helped us out with some donations over the years, and they stepped up and gave us a significant donation toward the truck,” Wager said.
The department applied $50,000 of the gift toward the down payment, which was added to $120,000 the department had set aside in recent years for the purchase. The balance will be paid off at $30,000 a year.
“The truck is almost half paid for already,” Wager said.
Wager said last year the department also saved money from the truck’s list price by working with a financing firm that is technically calling the purchase a lease. The finance company paid the manufacturer during the building process instead of waiting for the truck to be finished, Wager said, for example reimbursing the manufacturer for the chassis when that component was completed.
The Hoehl donation covered most of the equipment and fit-up costs, which were originally pegged at $100,000. Wager said the department carefully considered ways to keep those expenses down, such as by buying refurbished air packs instead of new ones.
The department was happy to be able to keep costs down for taxpayers, and Wager said selectboard members are also happy.
“I think they are pleased how we were able to pull this together. We stayed on or below budget,” he said.
The new rig replaces a truck that is almost 24 years old, is becoming unreliable, and can carry, at most, three firefighters. When the department members are trained and the last of the equipment is installed sometime this month, the new truck will bring up to a half-dozen responders to calls.
“Three was tight. Two was normal. But we’ll be able to comfortably and safely carry six firefighters,” Wager said.
And when they arrive, the truck will allow them to operate more efficiently.
“They’ll be able to hop out of the truck geared up,” Wager said. “Two, the truck is built around ergonomics. All the ladders, the suction tubes and everything, are at a standard firefighter’s working height so we don’t have to climb on top of the truck or do any awkward lifting to get anything off the truck.”
Also, the truck has cabinets that are dedicated to different specialties for different incidents, with all the necessary tools laid out and easily found, he said, while the pumping capacity (15,000 gallons of water per minute) and payload (1,250 gallons) are both superior to the old truck. The new truck also offers a foam-spraying system with a 25-gallon tank.  
“It just helps firefighters do their jobs more effectively,” Wager said.
And more safely: The truck has airbags, anti-lock brakes and built-in rollover protection for its passengers, plus, Wager said, it has been tested to be safe from rolling over.
“As a chief and a resident,” Wager said, it gives him peace of mind to know. “We’ve got firefighters responding in a truck that has airbags and enhanced safety.”
 He summed up the difference between the old and new trucks’ capabilities.
 “(The old truck) has been serviceable for the last couple decades, but I think this is going to be a major turning point for our ability to be more efficient and help the firefighters do their job,” Wager said.
And he offered one more plus — durability.
“The truck was engineered for extended service and low operating costs, with a stainless steel body, a galvanized steel frame. All the plumbing is stainless steel, with a lifetime tank. It’s designed to last a long time. It will definitely last the town a quarter century of more,” he said. “The department is very proud of it.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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