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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

New fire truck arrives

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Battalion Three employee Don Hickam, left, demonstrates for East Prairie Mayor Gene Ditto the hydraulic ladder.
EAST PRAIRIE -- City officials and residents gleamed with joy as a brand new fire truck rolled into East Prairie Wednesday morning.

"I love it," said John Gifford, fire chief, as he stared at the shiny red engine. "I wish we had three of these."

The city applied for an Assistance to Firefighters Grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency in April 2005. It was awarded the grant about six months ago.

"We needed a new truck badly," Gifford said.

The fire department's 12-member team fights between 90 and 150 fires each year in East Prairie, Gifford said.

"We have never had a new fire truck in town," Mayor Gene Ditto said. "I consider ourselves fortunate and lucky. We're very appreciative ... everyone will benefit."

Noticeably absent from Wednesday's big event was City Administrator Kathie Simpkins who died Sunday following a long battle with cancer.

"I wish we would've gotten this in time for her to see it," Lonnie Thurmond, community developer, said.

Until the new one arrived Wednesday, East Prairie's newest engine was a 1985 model. The city also owns a 1975 fire truck.

The 2006 Rosenbauer fire engine cost $178,000 -- of which 95 percent was FEMA funds; the other 5 percent funding is from city funds, Thurmond said. The fire truck was purchased from the Central States Fire Apparatus LLC dealer, Battalion Three out of Arnold.

"Any time the trucks would break down, their replacement parts were hard to find," Thurmond said, about the older models. "The pumps were obsolete, and repair costs were astronomical."

With over 20 years difference in the new truck and the older model, city officials said the more recent truck will make a bigger impact when fighting fires.

In addition to just being new and standard fire truck features, the new engine is equipped with a hydraulic ladder system that can be lowered down to eye level for fire fighters to access easily. And because the ladder doesn't have to hang on the side of the truck, compartments have been built in to store more equipment.

Another useful feature is the household structure fire foam pump.

"Before they just had water to use for fires, and now they have the foam," Thurmond said.

Ditto noted the new engine's primary use will be for the city; the older units will be used for rural fires. However, he said the new engine will be used in rural areas when needed.

"It's not the biggest or most expensive truck," Thurmond said about the engine. "But it will take care of our needs."