Chilmark scores fast attack truck

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Chilmark bought a new mini-pumper at a bargain price. Impressed at its power and ruggedness, Chief Norton called it a "mean ol' beast."

The Chilmark Fire Department recently purchased a fast attack truck at the bargain price of $20,000. Technically a mini-pumper, according to Fire Chief David Norton, the truck was a trade-in to Bulldog Fire apparatus, and was coveted by many potential buyers. Chilmark managed to get it first.

Though it dates from the late 1990s, the truck only has 14,500 miles on it, Chilmark Fire Lt. Gary Robinson said. Robinson said the four-wheel drive Ford turbo diesel has a number of handy features. Its two-stage pump can switch from high-pressure mode to traditional high-volume mode. The high-pressure mode aerates the water, and produces a jet similar to a commercial pressure washer, Robinson said. He said that jet was ideal for brush fires. To use high-pressure water, the truck comes equipped with what Chief Norton descibes as a “forestry hose” on a reel on the back of the truck. It only takes one firefighter to use the hose, Robinson said. The truck “can actually spray water from under its front bumper while it’s driving,” he added. The water plume this makes “looks like a cowcatcher on a train,” he said. The feature is helpful for fighting grassland fires, he said.

Robinson described the truck as overbuilt and “really powerful.”

“It’s definitely beefy,” Assistant Fire Chief Jeremy Bradshaw said. “It’s really perfect for our car rescues.”

Car rescues and alarm calls will be its primary use, Chief Norton said.

Rolling up on an alarm call in a truck with 300 gallons aboard could make a big difference if the call actually panned out, Robinson said. Chilmark firefighters previously used their own vehicles or an old Chevy Tahoe to go on those calls. Being narrower and much shorter than the department’s brushbreaker, Chief Norton said the new truck will be especially helpful in accessing properties on Chilmark’s winding dirt roads. “This truck can maneuver around and get into tight spots,” Chief Norton said.

The sturdiness of the truck does have one drawback, Robinson said, it’s a boneshaker over bumps. He joked the department might have to install egg-crate foam on the seats. But there’s an engineering reason for such a stiff suspension, he said. Were it cushier and bouncier, it would slosh around the water stored aboard and unbalance the truck.

The fire department plans to add a winch to the front of the truck, Chief Norton said, and stock it with a few items from the station.

In horsepower, as opposed to torque, Robinson said it was now the most powerful truck in the department.

“That thing is a mean ol’ beast,” Chief Norton said.