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After truck troubles, Cape firefighters welcome new engine

Sunday, February 22, 2004

When it rolled into Station No. 1 for the first time, cameras flashed as Cape Girardeau firefighters welcomed the city's new 2004 E-One Cyclone II fire engine.

After a two-hour trip from the pick-up site in Collinsville, Ill., firefighter Larry Galloway drove the truck into the station Friday evening, with Capt. Brad Dillow at his side.

For the next couple hours, a stream of visitors arrived to admire the new engine.

"To be pulling in with a new truck -- with the anticipation we've had as a department waiting for it -- it was just a good feeling inside," Dillow said.

The new $362,000 E-One arrives at a crucial time. The department suffered a series of vehicle setbacks in recent months. The 1986 ladder truck is currently offline due to an electrical problem, though it should be repaired by midweek, said assistant chief Mark Hasheider. The same truck was offline twice in December for a hydraulic fluid leak and "severe fatigue cracks" on the 75-foot ladder's rear cross brace.

And in October, the department's frontline 1978 Warner/Swazey truck suffered an overheated engine and repair estimates were too high to justify fixing it, Hasheider said. And so, one of the two reserve engines, a 1974 American/LaFrance, was pushed into the role of a front-line vehicle.

"We expect this new truck to be in service for 20 years," Hasheider said. "That means that a child born today will see this truck still in service when he's midway through college. When we build it, we're not only building it for today's use but for 10 to 15 years down the line."

The department runs 2,800 calls annually to structure fires, medical calls and lesser alarms. The new truck's custom chassis is designed to handle the workload of a busy fire engine, Hasheider said. In the 1970s, the department was running fewer than 800 calls a year.

"It's fully loaded 365 days a year," he said. "That's why it's got a heavy-duty suspension system. It's a 'get up and go' type of truck."

The new truck was bought from a manufacturer from Ocala, Fla., through a 10-year lease-purchase agreement. Crews will spend the next few days training with it before it is available for response to calls.

Should there be any problems with it, the manufacturer can run diagnostic tests on the engine and electronic system via a phone line, much like an Internet connection, Hasheider said.

Available at the flick of a switch, the E-One has more lights than any of the department's older trucks, he said. On the rear side, the older trucks only have red and blue globes, but the E-One also has additional yellow strobes and a traffic directing light pane that alerts motorists to avoid the truck. In addition, premounted external scene lamps can light up a city block with a total of 3,000 watts of power.

"This one, when it's fully lit up, it almost looks like a Christmas tree," Hasheider said.

The rear-view mirrors are mounted on the front of the truck instead of the doors to make it easier for the driver to see with minimal head movement. The cab was built with safety features to protect firefighters in case of an accident, Hasheider said. Anything a crew member needs is within closer reach. Practically everything is bolted down, even the holders for the boxes of latex gloves.

"All tools have to be either mounted or enclosed in a cabinet," he said. "And equipment on the outside hase been lowered to be reachable from the ground level."

Much of the equipment was purchased with the truck rather than transfering it from an older truck, he said. This will enable the department to have a fully equipped reserve engine.

Whereas older trucks have gasoline-powered generators for the pump, the 2004 truck has amore efficient hydraulic-powered generator. An electronic sensor system knows when the truck is parked at a scene and puts the engine in high idle and shuts down lights to conserve battery power.

"It ensures that the truck will always start," Dillow said.

Everything in the design of the truck was done to shave seconds off response time, which equates to saving lives, Dillow said.

"There's a reason behind everything we do," Dillow said. "We can do so much more with this truck. It's unbelievable."

mwells@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160


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