By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
HAGAMAN -- Hagaman Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Jody Carden jumped into the driver's seat of fire engine No. 5 Thursday morning, and though he only planned to pull the truck out of the station into the driveway, he grabbed his seat belt and clicked it on.
"The truck won't move unless he puts on his seat belt," said Chief Donny Reksc, grinning at the new addition to the department's fleet -- a custom-built 2012 Toyne fire engine.
The engine was delivered Sept. 21, the culmination of three years of research, planning and design work on behalf of a six-man committee.
Carden -- who served the committee with Nick Bartosik, Stan Posluszny, Harold Bell, Eric Sandy and Steve Gladman -- said the first two years of the process was comprised of identifying the department's needs, seeking vendors, evaluating the options each offered, and the design of the truck itself.
"It's like car shopping," Carden said. "We looked at what everyone offered, and then once we got everything specified the way we wanted it, we had to wait a year for them to build it."
The truck, priced at $471,000.89, was bought from a family-owned company in Iowa.
It will replace an engine that's helped protect the department's fire district the past 20 years. Though the old 1993 Pierce has been a trusted resource, firefighter safety and maintenance of the department's recently-lowered fire insurance rating indicated it was time for a replacement.
The department had worked tirelessly with the Insurance Services Office, which sets insurance rates, to reduce the department's rating. The rating is based on the department's fire-fighting capabilities in its manpower, equipment, resources and training.
And once a fire engine becomes 20-years-old, it can negatively impact that rating, Reksc said.
"We worked hard to get the class down for our fire districts, and we didn't want it to go back up when we just got it down," the chief said.
With the purchase, Reksc also expects representatives from the ISO will do another survey of the department's fire insurance rating, and he expects it will be reduced even further.
The department also has to look out for its firefighters, Reksc said, and the aforementioned seat belt feature is indicative of the concerns for their safety.
"I've heard about departments rushing to get to a scene, and they've gotten in accidents with the engines, and they didn't have their seat belts," Reksc said. "We don't want to worry about our firefighters getting hurt, or even killed, if they ever got in an accident."
And that's the simplest of safety features of the new engine. It additionally features a full-fledged safety restraint system, a larger, more spacious cab to carry more firefighters and loosen up the equipment area, and air bags.
They're all things the old engine didn't have, Reksc said.
In addition to the safety features, Reksc said the engine has state-of-the-art technology and equipment, like the water pump, which will also spray a foam with water that will "stick better" while fighting fires.
Those features will keep the 1993 engine around for another month or so, Reksc said, because the firefighters have to be trained how to use the new one before it will be put into action.
"Over the next month or so, we'll be training every week to get everyone comfortable with it," Reksc said.