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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow ELGIN RURAL GETS NEW FIRE TRUCK

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ELGIN RURAL GETS NEW FIRE TRUCK

MODERN FIREFIGHTING: Elgin Rural firefighters Mike Schmittle and Doug Durfee go over the new equipment on the 2002 fire engine that joined the department a week ago. The new engine means that Elgin firefighters will have it and the city's 1998 engine ready to respond to any fire. (The Observer/JEFF PETERSEN).
MODERN FIREFIGHTING: Elgin Rural firefighters Mike Schmittle and Doug Durfee go over the new equipment on the 2002 fire engine that joined the department a week ago. The new engine means that Elgin firefighters will have it and the city's 1998 engine ready to respond to any fire. (The Observer/JEFF PETERSEN).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

ELGIN — The Elgin Rural firefighters can joke about it now, but for years they could only keep putting donations and the proceeds from fund-raisers into an account for a new fire truck — and watch the prices of trucks go up and up.

As long as Fire Chief Pat McDonald can remember during the past 20 years, the department has been saving, and nursing along the 1965 FWD Ford engine that's been the rural department's main piece of equipment.

No longer.

Less than one full day before the Dec. 7 Elgin Light Parade, the department accepted delivery of its new 2002 Cummins diesel fire engine. McDonald isn't sure how many residents even noticed the new truck in the parade.

Talk about a Christmas present in red and silver. The new truck can carry five firefighters in the cab, has a pump that can put out 1,250 gallons of water per minute, carries an auxiliary pump, has a 315-horsepower motor that won't have any problems with the hills around Elgin, and can pump retardant Class A foam onto a fire.

And all that means that residents of Elgin and the Elgin Rural Fire District could conceivably see an improvement in their ISO fire protection rating, which could result in reduced home insurance costs within a year.

While McDonald said the 1965 engine has been a "good old truck," it does have many, many miles on it and has been having to climb at a slow crawl to many of the fire locations in the 175 square miles of the Elgin Rural Fire District.

The new engine "is a lot more efficient," McDonald said Sunday, watching some of the 23 volunteer members of the department clean the truck and go over its components.

The firefighters joke among themselves that the new engine will probably be around for the next 30 years, long after they've retired from firefighting.

Before long, Central States out of Spokane, from whom the engine was acquired on a lease-purchase agreement for about $160,000, will provide a class for all the volunteers on proper operation and care of the new equipment.

"It isn't that much different," McDonald said, than the equipment on the Elgin Fire Department's newest truck, a 1998 rig, but this will be the first engine capable of spraying foam.

When a fire is reported in Elgin, he added, both engines will respond.

The Elgin rural firefighters had tried to get grants to pay for the engine, but were unsuccessful, so just kept saving.

Now, they say, they just need to find a few "Santas" to help them put up a new fire hall — the new truck fits inside, but only fully loaded with water (to give it the four inches of clearance on top), and only when driven by three or four of the volunteers.

While the number of chimney flue fires has dramatically decreased in recent years, McDonald isn't worried about the new engine gathering dust in the fire hall.

Elgin rural firefighters respond to about 60 calls a year, he said. About half the calls are for fires, with about another quarter being calls for extrications and lift assists. The remaining calls cover everything from strange odors to flooding problems.

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