New fire engine arrives in Chester Added features mean faster response

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The new engine, top, features a hoist that makes for more storage space by getting the ladders off the side of the truck. It also makes ladder handling safer, according to Fire Chief Wilson. Telegraph photos

Last year’s Town Meeting ballot in Chester included a new pumper to replace a 1997 model that was at the end of its safe and useful life, according to Fire Chief Matt Wilson. The vote wasn’t even close, with the $500,000 truck purchase approved 463 to 175.

Last Friday, that truck rolled into Chester.

Wilson said that the new engine is neither a Cadillac nor a Yugo, but something in between. And that’s a big improvement for both the department’s ability to respond quickly and keep firefighters safe on the job.

“The Chester House Inn fire is a good example,” said Wilson. “We were lucky that we didn’t lose the whole house.” As The Telegraph reported at the time, the inn’s owner was a longtime volunteer firefighter who was able to remain calm and help inform while they were still at the station and direct the firefighters to the heart of the blaze.

With air supply integrated into seven seats in the cab, firefighters can go straight to the fire on arrival

But, Wilson said, while firefighters arrived quickly, they still had to unpack and don their breathing gear before going into the building. Once inside, Wilson saw signs that the fire was about to flash over and was about to pull firefighters out when they located the fire and began to knock it down.

“With this truck, our folks arrive with their air packs and masks already on and ready to pull hose and go inside,” said Wilson. “That would have put us on the fire three to five minutes faster … that’s huge.”

Wilson demonstrates the ladder hoist.

Wilson said that in a fire today, seconds count in a way they haven’t in the past. “You buy a $200 couch and it’s all synthetic materials that burn really fast,” said Wilson. “Wood furniture – like an oak dresser — takes time to catch and burn.” To view a video on just how fast a fire can spread in a modern room, click here.

There are also a number of safety features, not the least of which is that the new engine is not a fire truck built on an ordinary truck frame but on a stronger chassis that will protect occupants in an accident. This is especially important since the 1,000 gallons of water the truck carries to a fire weighs 8,340 pounds and rides behind the cab.

Roll-out storage compartments give quicker access to equipment and make lifting heavy things like the trash pump safer.

The department’s older engines had equipment hanging from the side of the truck that not only limited the use of storage on that side, but also forced firefighters to pull heavy ladders down from over their heads. The new setup provides more storage that’s easier to get to and keeps the ladders out of the way on a remote control hoist.

Chester Fire Department officer Steve Vertefeuille also pointed to roll-out storage drawers that allow firefighters to pull out heavy equipment like pumps and lift straight up instead of at an angle.

The truck features two memorials to firefighters who have recently died.

Although only 6 inches longer than the 1997 engine it replaces, the new engine seems imposingly large. But having the engine under the truck instead of up front allows for a crew cab with room for seven. Equipped with miked headphones to talk around the loud cab, firefighters can save time by discussing their assignments before they arrive.

Wilson told The Telegraph that when he first saw the truck at the factory in Florida it seemed huge.  “I thought, what have I ordered?”  he said. But looks are deceiving and the engine fits comfortably into its bay.

“Half a million is a lot of money, but over the 25 year life of the engine, it’s $20,000 a year for a big improvement in service,” said Wilson, taking the long view.

The truck carries a couple of memorials – one to former firefighter and department officer Mark O’Neil and one to former department member and Chester Police officer Mark Phelps.

The department decided to use old technology with an air siren rather than an electronic one.

Once the weather settles down a bit, the Chester Fire Department plans to hold an open house for residents to check out the new engine.

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