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Nevis Fire Dept. may seek FEMA grant for new truck

Interim fire chief Josh Winter discussed the department's equipment and gear needs with the city council on Nov. 14.

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Enterprise file photo.
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Interim fire chief Josh Winter updated the Nevis City Council on Monday about the fire department’s equipment and gear needs.

Winter said the department’s first response truck would be down with an electrical issue until at least Nov. 23, and so for now, “we’ll be using our brush rig that is drained of water for the winter to go on medical calls, or the ambulance, if I can get that inside at some point.”

He said he has started putting numbers together to replace the first response truck, a 1997 model with about 40,000 miles on it. “We’re looking at getting a gas-motored, one-ton pickup, put a topper on it, a slide in the back, take it somewhere and have all the lights, possibly a light tower put on it for scenes.”

Asked about the benefits of having a pickup instead of a traditional first response vehicle, Winter said, “Four-wheel drive is one. Ease of getting in and out of driveways, vs. having an ambulance-type rig. They’re taller. We can get this truck in pretty much anywhere we want to get” – including snowmobile trails.

Winter said he is looking for state bid numbers on the full package, including the lights and other add-ons. He said the Blue Book value of the truck sitting in the fire hall is over $20,000, and suggested selling it and using gaming proceeds to put a “chunk of money” toward a new truck.

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He said he is also thinking about applying for a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Our last engine was bought with a FEMA grant,” he said, adding that because of the grant, the truck only cost the city $20,000.

He said a FEMA grant could replace the department’s older pump truck, a 1987 vehicle that doesn’t have much storage space and isn’t safe to transport more than two people.

Major Jeanne Thompson suggested having a committee start looking at the department’s equipment needs and options.

Bunker vs. brush gear

Winter also reported a new firefighter was brought on board who had already completed fire training, so he only needed some medical training.

Winter said new gear ordered in the spring recently arrived, and he ordered 10 safety vests for personnel to wear at accident scenes.

Asked whether all firefighters have up-to-date bunker gear, Winter said, “Everyone should be compliant right now.”

Thompson asked about brush gear for fighting wildland fires. Winter voiced skepticism about its usefulness.

“Our main job at a grass fire is structural protection,” he said. “Now, we can have brush gear, but that means that everyone has to carry their bunker gear with them to that fire scene because if a house is in danger, or a house goes up in flames, that’s where we go, and then your brush gear isn’t rated to go in a house fire.”

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Winter said he discussed this with Park Rapids firefighters, and they said, “We’re structure first, grass fires second.”

Also, he said, each firefighter has one pair of boots rated for structure fires, and to wear them with brush gear they would have to pull them out of their bunker gear and later put them back in.

An alternative would be to buy them regular work boots. Winter agreed to look into the cost of brush gear, including boots.

MORE RELATED COVERAGE:
Kindergartners from Nevis School visited the local fire hall Oct. 26.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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