Brush truck ready

Friday, November 18, 2011
Tribune photo by Clint Confehr South Marshall Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Eva Williams smiles through the driver's door window of the new truck that she drove from the factory to the fire hall south of Cornersville.

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

CORNERSVILLE - South Marshall Volunteer Fire Department has a new, shiny red fire truck specially equipped to extinguish brush fires and last weekend the firefighters and their leaders had it on display.

The 2011 Super Duty Ford came from Ferrara Fire Apparatus Inc. in Holden, La., and cost $125,000, of which the Federal Emergency Management Agency paid $118,750 with the balance of $6,250 coming from fundraising events.

"We applied for the grant in Marsh 2010 and approval was received in January of 2011," said Ralph Hall, a past fire chief at nearby Five Points Volunteer Fire Department. "I wrote the grant" application.

SMVFD Assistant Chief Eva Williams "drove it home from Louisiana," she said, describing that experience with her nickname for the new truck. "I call it the monster. We didn't want to call it the beast because that was daddy's truck."

Williams is Hall's daughter.

"We could never afford a truck like this," said Hall's wife, Darlene, a past fire department secretary who's still active as a department spokeswoman. "The other truck is a pickup with a tank and pump."

Ralph Hall specified everything about the truck, but the urea tank was unexpected.

Urea is a byproduct of urine, frequently from cattle. The truck's fuel system routinely dispenses the liquid in with diesel, Hall explained. It reduces exhaust emissions that contribute to air pollution and it extends the truck's mileage, Hall said.

"That," Hall's wife, Darlene, said, "was something new."

However, firefighter John Young, whose day job is farming, said, "Urea is a new standard. They're on to me at the farm" to have such features.

The old Ford pickup truck being replaced by the new truck is 23 years old.

"The old one is flat worn out," Williams said. "When you bring it back from a fire, most of the time you have to add more oil than gas.

It's odometer reads 100,670 miles.

"It was a well-used truck when we got it," Ralph hall said.

Young is proud to have the new truck because it's reliable.

"You look like a fool with your face hanging out when your equipment doesn't work," he said. Nevertheless, the old truck "got the job done most of the time.

Ralph all said, "It costs more to run an old truck than a new truck."

The new truck has the capability of spraying foam. That makes the water supply go further. It smothers fires and it's virtually a requirement when fighting a petroleum fire since gas and oil are lighter than water and will float on top of water. If water is sprayed on a fuel fire, the water could just spread the fire.

Two sets of flat hoses can be pulled quickly from a drawer on the truck, one for each side. There's a quick response hose on top.

The new truck can draft water from a farm pond, a creek, swimming pool and a portable reservoir provided by the Marshall County Emergency Management Agency. The EMA's drop tank is set up like a 2,500 gallon swimming pool for the back yard, but it's filled when the tanker gets to a fire and left so more water can be brought to a remote location.

The new brush fire truck has a 300-gallon tank.

EMA Director Bob Hopkins drove Williams to Holden, La., to get the truck.

"I started out at 8.3 mpg, and when I got home, I was at 10.6 mpg," Williams said.

Ralph Hall specified "moderately aggressive" tire tread, he said.

"You can't run a big knob tire on the road," he said. "And four-wheel drive was a definite" need.

While it was FEMA that provided 95 percent of the cost of the truck, it's the Marshall County Commission that appropriates money for volunteer fire departments' utilities and other basic operational costs.

Training, turnout gear and the like are costs either paid by the department - as South Marshall did for the new truck - or paid by the volunteer firefighters themselves.