Harpersville gets smallest fire engine in Alabama

The Harpersville Volunteer Fire Department is the first in Alabama to put into operation a front-line fire truck which is half the size of a conventional pumper type fire engine but does the same job at less than half the price.

The addition of the new vehicle from E-One Fire Apparatus is part of the department’s effort to improve service and lower the ISO rating for Harpersville, according to Fire Chief Shane Phillips.

The mighty mite is the only one of its kind in operation at this time in Alabama, said Phillips.

He said the pumper, which is &uot;not much bigger than a pickup truck&uot; carries 300 gallons of water and 40 gallons of foam

(for hazardous materials incidents) and can pump up to 1,000 gallons of water per minute.

The vehicle also has four-wheel drive and drives like a large pickup truck, he said.

On a recent fire run, he said, the new truck was driven right up to the front door of a house while a larger Harpersville fire truck parked at the street and pumped water to the smaller unit.

Phillips said the new truck was purchased through a company called Sunbelt in Fairhope.

However, he said, the Ford F550 Super Duty V8 was built by a company called E-One Fire Apparatus in Canada, where the concept of the smaller firefighting unit was developed.

He explained that in Canada, a few fire departments have to cover a vast area.

Phillips said a standard-size fire truck costs anywhere between $250,000 and $500,000.

But Harpersville Mayor Gloria Tate said the newest edition to the Harpersville Volunteer Fire Department cost $126,000 fully equipped.

She said the truck was paid for by funds the city had set aside to match a Community Development Block Grant for the sewer project.

However, she said, Cheyenne Environmental in conjunction with Gulf States Paper offered to provide a sewer system for the city, freeing the city to use its money elsewhere.

&uot;I think it is wonderful that we were able to do it for the town,&uot; Tate said of the new fire truck.

&uot;This is being done for the people &045; not the fire department. It is something that will come back to (the citizens of Harpersville) in reduced fire insurance premiums in 2003.&uot;

Tate recalled that a salesman from Sunbelt had stopped in town to demonstrate the new fire truck. She said the council was meeting that night, and Phillips asked it the truck could be left overnight.

Tate said the council then voted to purchase the truck, which she called &uot;perfect for us.&uot; She explained that Harpersville has many small roads.

Phillips said the new truck is a part of Harpersville’s ongoing plan to reduce its fire insurance rating. He said the town currently has an ISO rating of 7.9 and is looking to reduce that rating to 4.0.

In addition to the E-One, Phillips said the Harpersville fleet boasts a 1992 Pierce-Arrow full-size fire truck purchased from West Albany, N.Y., a vehicle which was selected as best in show by the New York Fire Chiefs Association six years in a row. He said it was Albany’s show truck and it was &uot;pampered.&uot;

He said the department also has a 1984 front-mount GMC fire engine.

Phillips reported that the Harpersville Volunteer Fire Department includes 30 volunteers, three quarters of which are state certified firefighters.

He also said of those 30, the department has 20 active volunteers, 12 of whom are EMT’s (Emergency Medical Technicians).

Phillips said the new truck had been in service about one week and had already logged about 10 runs.

When Phillips first came on board at the department in September 2001, he recalled that the department had only one fire truck, the 1984 GMC.

He said that truck had mechanical difficulties, and the city of Harpersville had to borrow a fire truck from Pelham.

According to Phillips the new E-One has been dubbed by the fire department as &uot;The People’s Truck.&uot;

In addition to new equipment, Phillips said the Harpersville Volunteer Fire Department will hold a lock-in Friday, June 7 through Sunday, June 9 during which some 20 volunteers will have around-the-clock training on firefighting, emergency medical service and incident management