Firefighters loaded the last pieces of equipment into the engine.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Fire Department christened its new engine truck with an old tradition -- pushing it into the firehouse.
The symbolic push from members of the department honors the days of horse-drawn apparatus that firefighters would have to push back into the bay after calls. In honor of those days gone by, many departments have adopted a ceremonial version with new engines and Pittsfield held its first with the welcoming of brand-new Engine 3.
"This is a new tradition we'd like to start. A lot of other fire departments for years and years have taken on the role of pushing the new fire truck into the station. This is an old take off of the horse-drawn apparatus where they wouldn't use the horses to back them in, the guys would push the old pumpers and steamers into the station," Chief Robert Czerwinski said.
The ceremony was short and sweet. Department Chaplain Peter Gregory blessed the new truck, it was pushed into the station, and it is now ready for service. But for the firefighters, it was a small recognition of the city's capital investment in the new engine and the firefighters who will work on it.
"This was the first time we've done it. We've been wanting to do more pomp and circumstance kind of things to recognize the work the city has done for us and the work our guys do on a daily basis. We wanted to make more of a big deal about it because it is special to us. We work here, we live here," Capt. Neil Myers said.
Myers and Capt. Mitch Keller designed the truck. It is particularly aimed to carry more equipment because it is stationed at headquarters, which responds to all types of calls throughout the city and has numerous pieces of specialized equipment.
"This is the first truck we have had that has a place for everything and everything is mounted and not kind of tossed," Keller said.
The 2019 Seagrave Cab truck can pump some 1,750 gallons per minute. The body features numerous slide-out trays and boards for rescue operations. In the rear, there is on the go jaws of life with hydraulic reels for firefighters to quickly pull out and use. It is also designed to be low maintenance.
"We designed this more as a rescue body because it was a headquarters engine and respond to every call in the city, any of the heavy-duty rescue situations they respond, so we have extra space on the top. It is a totally different design than truck we ever had in the department -- bigger cab, bigger body, more space," Myers said.
It is the first truck in years that was custom built to fit the department's needs. The last piece of equipment purchased was a ladder truck that was a demonstration model built to be shown at shows. The city purchased a few used engines before that.
But the equipment has been slowly being upgraded over the last decade. The city had a consultant craft a replacement plan for the engines that the city has been following for the most part to help catch up after years of little investment.
"This is our third engine in seven years," Myers said. "We are finally playing catch up after so many years of not buying engines."
Keller said brand new engines were purchased in 2012 and in 2016 -- fitting with the plan to purchase a new engine every three years. But before that, the city hadn't had a new engine in seven years.
"There is a 1985 engine that we were using before this went into service. A 34-year-old apparatus, that is not ideal," Keller said.
This purchase was for $649,000 and paid for through the city's capital borrowing. The department went back to Seagrave for this engine as well, happy with the last two purchased. Keller and Myers began working on the specifications in May 2018, attended two pre-build conferences in Wisconsin to finalize the plans, and then performed the final inspection before it was delivered last week. The two said they were involved in everything from the tires, to the engine, to the generators, to the layout of the compartments.
The new engine was delivered last Monday and is now in service.
"This is the third engine with this particular manufacturer so there wasn't as much to do. The first one that Deputy [Michael] Polidoro and I did in 2011 was quite a bit more in-depth because we started from scratch. This one we just built on the spec we had for Engine 5 and Engine 6, made it a bit bigger, added a bit more storage space, a little bit more catered to headquarters," Keller said.
The department has been holding onto and using, a former Lenox engine as a reserve truck, which will now be put out of service. A 1991 Pierce also is going to be put out of service. And the engine from headquarters will be moved to another firehouse.
"The overall thing is firefighter safety. That's our No. 1 goal here, keep our guys safe, get them on the road, fewer breakdowns, just being able to do their jobs and get to the call safely," Myers said.
Prior to pushing the engine into the fire station, Gregory said a prayer and blessed the truck with holy water. That too has been a fairly new tradition for the department.
"I think it is an important part of who we are and what we do. We look for some guidance from the powers above to watch over us every time we go to a fire," Czerwinski said.
Gregory, the retired pastor of St. Charles' Church, said the blessing is not just for the truck itself but extends to the firefighters who will be working on it.
"You are the firefighters. You are the ones who save. You are the instruments of protection and you deserve to be held in esteem and dignity," Gregory told the firefighters gathered.
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