Tisbury's new, terrific fire truck debuts
If the arrival of Tisbury's new fire truck on Saturday had a theme song, it would be Carly Simon's "Anticipation." A small but hardy crowd of volunteer firefighters, police officers, town officials, and Tisbury residents lined up at the ferry dock, waiting for the truck's arrival at 7:45 am aboard the steamship Martha's Vineyard.
Perhaps it was the 18-degree weather and icy wind that brought tears to everyone's eyes, or perhaps it was the long-awaited sight of the 41-ft. shiny yellow-green behemoth rolling off the boat, lights flashing, siren blasting, and horn honking. With eyes full of wonder and big grins on their faces, the dozen or so volunteer firefighters lined up on the ramp looked like kids on Christmas morning.
Although Russ Maciel, captain of the ladder truck company, had been sick in bed for two days, he said nothing would have kept him away. "I can die tomorrow, but not today," he joked. Three generations of his family have served on the old ladder truck, including his father, who was once captain, him, and his son Ken.
Able to reach the tallest Island buildings, Tisbury's new ladder truck, with its 100-foot articulated boom, lives in a temporary home. Photo by Brian Jolley
"The whole Island won today," declared Tom Colligan, assistant fire chief. "We have waited a long time for this, and it will be an asset for everyone."
That wait was four years from inception to delivery, as John Schilling, fire chief, pointed out. His department started looking at the truck in 2002, and in August 2003, had one brought over to the Island for a demonstration and test run to see if it would fit on Tisbury's streets. The town's voters approved the truck's purchase at the annual town meeting in April 2004, and it was ordered in January 2005.
In the meantime, at a special town meeting in November 2005, voters were asked to approve another $150,000 to fund the construction of a garage facility for the new truck, which would not fit in the fire station. The truck also could not be stored in existing department of public works (DPW) facilities, because it requires a heated facility and should not be stored next to snow removal equipment because of possible damage from salt.
The fire truck's new home, a pre-engineered garage complete with heating and lighting at the DPW facility on High Point Lane, was finished last month
After the truck's arrival, it sat on display in front of the Tisbury fire station for about an hour before the firefighters headed out for training on their new rig.
"This is not exactly the kind of day I had in mind for its debut," said Chief Schilling, who worried that the cold temperatures and wind would create problems at the training site in the lower parking lot at the Tisbury School, possibly creating an "ice rink" from water hose practice.
Fortunately, the chief said, the day went off without a hitch, with about 18 firefighters taking turns "flying around" on the truck's 100-ft. articulating boom platform with a factory representative and performing other training exercises from 9 am to 5 pm.
The articulating boom's reach - the ability to go up, out, over and down - was the selling point for Tisbury, Chief Schilling said, offering firefighters the ability to perform harbor rescues and to fight fires in the confined neighborhoods on Main Street and the William Street historic district.
The custom-built rescue-ladder-platform truck, built by E-1 in Ocala, Fla., cost $798,000. Although the cost of steel rose after Tisbury received its first estimate and before starting the bid process, "The company held the line for us," said Chief Schilling, who estimated the truck now would cost about one million dollars.
Since Tisbury's fire and ambulance services operate separately, Chief Schilling said his department customized its truck by replacing medical equipment storage space with 200-ft. electrical cord reels with junction boxes to provide power for lights, fans or tools. "It is a little bit of an innovation that had never been done before, and now the company has adopted the idea in most of their trucks coming off the line," the chief said.
The truck's color, which Chief Schilling calls "Tisbury green," is a departure from the traditional fire engine red. He is especially proud of the customized graphics, done in white and blue reflective lettering rather than the standard black with gold leaf outline.
Chief Schilling said he and members of the ladder truck company brainstormed ideas for the designs with Jim Cassidy, a graphics artist, while sitting around a table next to the truck when it arrived for final outfitting at Greenwood Fire Apparatus in North Attleboro. After mounting some final tools, a backup camera, siren and bell, the company also completed a final check of all systems and operations.
The new truck replaces its vintage 1960 predecessor, for which finding parts was nearly impossible and maintenance a challenge. "We had to carry power steering fluid and Speedy Dry to clean up the puddle of leaked fluid before we left a fire scene," said Chief Schilling. "On the last call we went on, we had trouble getting the old truck started at all. We are very relieved we don't have that vehicle in service anymore."
However, he added, "We want to pay respects to the old truck's long history of service to the town with a decommissioning ceremony, along with some fanfare for the new one."
Once Tisbury voters officially declare the old fire truck as surplus at a special town meeting on March 28, it will be put up for auction on eBay soon after.