Wednesday, August 20th, 2008
By Janie Southard
A bell of St. Marys now rides on brand new, customized fire truck
  ST. MARYS - The bell on the front bumper is at least 80 years old. The bumper and the fire truck behind it are brand new and just arrived in town last week.
The city fire department's new truck is no cookie-cutter model, it is custom made from the ground up, says Assistant Fire Chief Joey Weaver. Well, that's except for the bell, which has been handed down from truck to truck since the 1930s. But, the mount for the bell is as new as the truck.
In July 2007, the department put in the new truck order with The Sutphen Corporation of Columbus, a family-owned builder of fire trucks since 1890. It is the oldest continuously owned and operated fire apparatus manufacturer in the country. (Interestingly, Sutphen was recently featured on The Discovery Channel show "Some Assembly Required.")
The local department received the $800,000-plus aerial platform truck on Aug. 4. While it hasn't yet been to a fire, it has been in a parade - SummerFest.
"Right now we're still in training with it, but it's very user friendly and much more efficient ... It used to take us five minutes to set up the old truck each time we took it out. We can set this one up in about a minute," Weaver says.
In the 1975 truck, which the new one replaces, setup meant someone had to run around the truck flipping switches and pulling levers. Not so with this new version. An operation panel can be flipped open on the side of the truck and a firefighter can set up with just pushing seven or eight switches. Setup is performed after the truck arrives at the fire scene.
"It may sound small but it's saving valuable time," Weaver says.
Certainly, saving time is a prime focus. Any of the department's 13 full-time firefighters can be geared up and out the door in at least two minutes from the time a call comes in. So the shorter setup will speed up the time getting the water on the flame.
"We did a lot of measuring before we put the order in last summer - measuring equipment to make sure the compartments (would be made to fit)," the assistant chief says.
As to size, it's bigger than the old one and roomier.
"With this one, the guys can ride inside the cab, which is an improvement in safety," Weaver says.
Another safety boon is the striping on the rear of the vehicle, which puts the department in compliance with the safety regs that will be required as of January 2009.
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