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The Fire Department's new tricked out "ambulance" will carry rescue gear, oxygen, Jaws of Life, tools and dive suits. Firefighters put around $4,500 of donated funds into refurbishing the vehicle, which was sold to them by North Memorial Ambulance in Park Rapids. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

New fire truck on the way for Park Rapids Fire Department

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"Out with the old" isn't exactly the Park Rapids Fire Department's mantra these days, but the squad is steadily accumulating younger manpower and newer vehicles.

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As the 26-member department ages and more firefighters retire, "we're becoming a younger squad," said Fire Chief Donn Hoffman. "We could have two openings this spring."

The department has just ordered a new custom-built engine, a $379,883 investment. It has all the bells and whistles.

It doesn't whistle "Dixie," but probably could be programmed to.

"Fire trucks don't have to be custom made," Hoffman said. "It's a choice we made because in order to get the devices we wanted on this truck and maintain the length of the truck and the turning radius, we had to use a custom.

"So we can get a way tighter turning radius with the custom than we can with the stock chassis," he added.

That's important in lake country where residents tend to have curvy, steep driveways winding through the trees.

Like all fire service equipment, speeds will be governed.

"It'll probably do 75, maybe 80 mph tops," Hoffman said. "Which is a good thing. We don't need to go faster than that."

But some of the features on the new fire engine will save wear and tear on both equipment and firefighters.

"It's got a bumper mounted turret pump, a high volume master stream nozzle: 'Pump and run,'" Hoffman said. "In other words we can move up to 8 mph pumping, which is kind of a big thing. None of our other engines can do that."

The department does have a couple tankers that can spray from a bumper-mounted nozzle.

But the new truck is special.

"We can also operate that bumper-mounted turret from the cab," Hoffman said. "If you've got a moving fire like a grass fire in the ditch, if you've got an airplane or something along those lines, you don't have to expose a man to this at all. You can run water from the cab."

Another feature is how the ladders are mounted on the truck.

"All the ladders are on a hydraulic lift that will come down the side, which we already have on one of our trucks," Hoffman said. It's a safety feature.

And it prevents back injuries to firefighters struggling to heave ladders up and down on the top of the fire trucks.

"It's a five-man cab," Hoffman explained. "There's four jump seats in this cab. There's two teams that will be ready to attack when they're on the scene, which we also already have."

A huge generator will power four telescoping lights that can be raised to

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Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers Hubbard County, courts and breaking news.

(218) 732-3364
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