By Maggie Beamguard
A new, bright red engine will soon be pulling into the bay at West End Fire and Rescue.
The addition to the fleet is a 2024 Freightliner Chassis with a midwest body that has been in the making since 2020/2021.
West End Captain Austin Hubbard and three other members of the department are scheduled to fly to Luverne, Minnesota to inspect the truck on Sept. 4.
“If everything meets our specifications, we’ll take delivery of it,” Hubbard said, “and we’ll make our way back to North Carolina.”
This truck will serve as both an engine and a tanker.
“A tanker is a good resource to have in a rural area where there is no good water resource or hydrants or anything like, and there’s a long distance from a lake or a pond,” said Hubbard. The tankers offload the water they carry into portable pools called drop tanks. Engines are able to pull the water out of the drop tanks, which can be refilled by other tankers.
The department’s equipment must meet the standards of the state fire marshal.
“Generally every four or five years they grade us, and that affects insurance rates,” said Hubbard. One of those requirements is that each fire department must take two engines to each structure fire.
This requirement presented the West End Fire and Rescue with a dilemma.
“Operationally, for West End, especially in areas that lack fire hydrants, we really only felt the need to take one engine and to take two tankers,” said Hubbard. Engines carry only about 1000 gallons of water, whereas tankers can carry up to 4,000 gallons.
To meet the requirements of the state for two engines, and to be most effective in this area, the department developed the idea to purchase a truck that could serve a dual capacity as an engine and a tanker.
The new truck carries 2,000 gallons of water and a 2,100 gallon portable drop tank. It has the ability to dump its entire load of water off the rear through a discharge pump. But it also features four compartments all the way around and includes ladder storage, a 1,250-gallon-per-minute pump, a deck gun for dousing fires, two side hose lines and one rear hoseline.
“We put in the specifications to make sure that we could specifically carry all the equipment we needed for the state to consider it an engine,” Hubbard said. It will also carry four air packs, a chainsaw, a number of axes and hand tools, all the appliances needed to draft water, and even a thermal imaging camera.
This hybrid truck will expand the department’s capabilities, allowing it to meet state requirements and to bring 4,000 gallons of water to each structure fire. It joins another 2,000-gallon tanker in the fleet but provides the additional resources of an engine.
“If we take it to a fire, it can it can be the engine and it can have all the hose and all the ladders and everything we need to fight the fire,” said Hubbard, “or if it’s not the first truck to get there, it can bring that extra water and the portable tank.”
An engine like this costs as much as a house. The department ultimately signed a contract for the new engine with Midwest Fire 18 months ago for $318,000.
It is paid for primarily through tax dollars from the county and the Village of Foxfire, which contracts with West End Fire and Rescue for fire protection.
“We’re really fortunate in Moore County to have the funding that we have from the fire departments and local municipalities. Our citizens are fortunate to be protected by a group of fire departments that are generally well funded by our local government.”
But the department has also received donations from within the fire district. “We’ve had a fund drive in the past, and I do believe we did it this past year. We got a generous amount of donations from that fund.”
Some of that money has been used for smaller enhancements on the truck, such as adding utility spotlights.
“I think it’s important that everyone that reads this understands the struggle that all of our fire departments are having,” said Hubbard. “I talked to a lot of different fire chiefs and folks involved with the fire department throughout the county and everything’s really expensive for us right now. We’re seeing the effects of the economy like everybody else.”
Everything from gear to heavy equipment has gotten more expensive due to inflation, manufacturing and labor shortages.
Fire truck production has slowed down as well. The same contract West End Fire and Rescue signed 18 months ago would likely take three years to complete if the department signed it today. The big hold up is with chassis manufacturers who supply delivery trucks and the military as well as fire departments.
Hubbard says that Midwest Fire has done an excellent job so far. Engine 654 will soon make its home in West End and will be ready to respond to calls once the clerical work is finalized. Then it will be ready to roll.
“This truck is going to provide a resource to us when responding, especially to these structure fire type calls,” said Hubbard. Its dual functionality will provide flexibility. “It’s going to have absolutely everything I need on it, no questions asked.”
Once Engine 654 arrives, the fleet will consist of four fire engines, one tanker, a heavy rescue truck, two rescue boats, two brush trucks, one quick response vehicle and one chief’s vehicle.
West End Fire and Rescue operates out of two fire stations, the primary station in West End at N.C. 73 and 211 and a station on Town Hall Drive in Foxfire.
“I think this truck is going to be a good thing for all the local fire departments. We all help each other out a lot,” said Hubbard, “and we really appreciate our community and the support we get.”
Contact Maggie Beamguard at email@example.com.