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The Whitecourt Fire Department celebrated the official arrival of its new Rescue 1 truck on the evening of February 28 at the fire hall.
The evening started off with a birthday celebration as Captain Larry Lopes turned 76. As the longest-standing member ever, Captain Lopes is highly regarded by those who work alongside him and, his knowledge, gained through years of working on the front lines, is a valuable resource for every firefighter to learn from. “I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and I’ve enjoyed it so much. They are fantastic here and you can’t get a better group,” said Larry, adding with a laugh, “I don’t want to retire but I have to.” Captain Lopes has been a member of the department for 32 years.
Following cupcakes, the entire department went into the bay area and lined the walls. Moments later, the bay door opened revealing the shiny, red truck that was waiting on the other side. Chief Wynn then drove it into the bay and those in attendance, including Mayors Chichak and Rennie, came in for a close-up view.
Fire Chief Brian Wynn said the beauty of this rescue truck is that it holds three times what the old truck used to hold. “The trouble we had with our old truck is that it only carried five guys and they were cramped when they were in bunker gear. There also wasn’t a lot of room and we couldn’t carry all the equipment that we needed. The beauty of this truck is that it carries absolutely 100 per cent of our equipment that we have for rescues. No matter what we are going to, it has the equipment on it. It’s basically our big tool box.”
With the old truck different pieces of equipment, for example life jackets or the rescue boat couldn’t fit on the truck, so a secondary vehicle would be used. “This new truck will stop us from having an incident where we forget a bag or something like that because it wasn’t on the truck,” said Wynn.
The truck has a big enough cab for six people to ride comfortably and it’s also big enough so that when the crew must get dressed or undressed they can do it in the cab where it’s warm rather than doing it outside in the elements.
One of the new features which Chief Wynn called “a game changer,” is the light tower. “Most of the time we’re not called out during the day. It’s at night time and we are down in the ditch and, of course, there is no lighting on the highway.” The tower will properly illuminate the area helping to keep the firefighters safe.
Another neat aspect of the truck is that the exhaust is rigged to go out at the roof instead of being down on the ground. This allows for the crew to use one side as a rehabilitation area without the worry of gassing people out. “It gets it up and out of the way,” said Deputy Chief Aaron Floyd. When asked his favourite part of the new truck, Aaron grew a big smile and said, “It’s the people who are riding in it.”
The truck was built specifically for the department by Pierce, meaning every nook and cranny is being used. Shelving can even be resized to accommodate new equipment which is a must considering fleet trucks are used for 20 years. As for the old truck, Blue Ridge or Anselmo are potential departments that will receive it, “We want to keep it in the county as a backup rescue truck.” The new truck supports half the county, roughly 3,600 square miles so having a backup is a big help
Following a proper farewell which included a ceremonial page out from the 911 dispatch, Mayor Chichak hopped in the front seat of the old truck and steered it out the front bay door as firefighters pushed it. The men and women of the Whitecourt Fire Department would like to thank both the town and county for the 50/50 support they provided towards the purchase which, truthfully, serves everyone and keeps us all much safer.