The McLean County Western Fire Department in Beech Grove has added a new truck to its fleet.

Joey Tapp, assistant fire chief, said the fire department has received a 2021 Freightliner 3,000-gallon pumper-tanker, which is capable of pumping up to 1,000 gallons of water per minute.

The truck was purchased after the department received $255,238 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency last September to replace its existing truck, which was over 40 years old and was originally used as a milk truck.

“It wasn’t practical,” Tapp said. “We were able to haul water with it, and we had a pump with it. But, there wasn’t a lot of stability with that truck. It was so old, and you could go 40 mph down the highway, and that was about it. I mean, it would shake and rattle….”

The department worked with Green River Area Development District to find funds for a new truck, which Tapp believed was a dire need for the community.

“This community is a very close-knit community of Beech Grove, and it’s basically a lot of farmers,” Tapp said. “The truck that they had was a 1978 Chevrolet; only a few people could drive it. It was, all the time, breaking down or there was always something going wrong with it. If there was a fire, you would get it back and have to work on it.”

Tapp was keen on finding ways to purchase the fire truck while also saving taxpayers’ money.

“I contacted Congressman James Comer’s office when I wrote the grant,” Tapp said. “He has a satellite office in Madisonville (and) got with one of his staff members and told him what we were doing, told him that GRADD gave us this … AIG grant idea, and they said this would fit your need, you might say. ...I was able to sit down with them, show them pictures of the old truck and show them the need. And it went to Washington and, evidently, three months later, his office is calling me saying ‘Your grant went through.’ ”

Upon receiving the funds and ordering the chassis from Freightliner, the truck was put together by McGinley Fire Apparatus, a small fire truck manufacturer based in Lebanon, Indiana, that builds pumpers and tankers on commercial and custom chassis.

Lynn said that it took roughly a year for the company to assemble the new truck due to assembling the unit from scratch, such as assembling the pump and tank, along with creating custom cabinets.

Tapp went to Lebanon to pick up the truck with his wife Erica on Nov. 21 and brought it straight to the fire department.

The final cost of the truck is about $268,000, along with a lifetime warranty. Tapp said that he has spoken to other fire departments in surrounding counties that have had great experiences with this type of truck and services.

“We were able to secure a great warranty with it,” Tapp said. “Let’s say if just tomorrow … if we bust a seal or something breaks — they’re here the next day.”

Tapp said that the new truck also carries a 10,000-gallon draft tank, or “pool,” where the department can sit out on the road or a yard and start drafting water if needed, which is ideal for a small community like Beech Grove that does not have much emergency access to water.

“It folds down and you just put it off the truck and you set it up,” Tapp said. “In about five minutes, you can release that tanker to go back to the hydrant, fill up again, and start dumping water. It’s great for rural use because, … we have very, very few hydrants. And the hydrants that we do have don’t have a lot of pressure, so it takes awhile to fill a truck.”

Tapp notes that the truck is ideal for Beech Grove, which typically experiences more brush fires than wildfires.

“Your pickup trucks that you use in a brush fire … hold 2,000 gallons of water,” Tapp said. “That doesn’t go far. And you can always have this truck sitting out on the road, and you can just fill off of it.”

Tapp also said that there are plans to install suction hoses, if needed, to get water from other bodies of water, like a pond or a swimming pool, if necessary.

“You have to do what you have to do out here,” Tapp said. “What you leave the station with could be all the water that you have unless you start thinking outside the box.”

Tapp said that the new truck will be available for any emergency calls, including if assistance is needed in Calhoun or even places outside the county, like Sebree.

“All a person has to do is just call, and if there is a person around town, we will get it to them,” Tapp said. “Because it does hold quite a bit of water compared to other trucks in the area.”

While the department has had the truck for close to two weeks, Tapp said that they have not used it yet for action, but have already been training on the truck and learning how to operate it.

“It’s like buying a brand new vehicle,” Tapp said. “You have to read the owner’s manual; and this came with several manuals — pump, tank, it came with a video to watch. We have to go through it. Of course, we want to make sure it works right but, then again, we need to train ourselves.”

But Tapp said that the truck is “ready to roll” when needed, with close to 80% of the equipment already installed while some of it is delayed due to shipping constraints caused by COVID.

Freddie Bourne, fbourne@mcleannews.com

Freddie Bourne, fbourne@mcleannews.com

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