New fire truck ready to roll
When the first alarm rings after 8 a.m. Friday, McKeesport residents will reap the benefit of what the city's top fire official calls both a blessing and a bargain.
That's when the 26-man department's new 75-foot fire truck goes into service.
"It's a blessing," said Chief Frederick Bray of the $483,000 truck that will be paid for through a federal Community Development Block Grant. The truck was delivered last week.
The department's current elevated platform truck is 17 years old and has a ladder but lacks a pump, meaning "you have to have a pumper truck connected to it to pump water," he said.
The new truck is a ladder truck and a pumper and "also can carry rescue equipment, so that makes it three trucks in one," Bray said. "It's a 2002 model and came fully equipped with nozzles, hand tools, hoses, ladders — everything you need to equip a vehicle."
Adding that gear to a truck that did not have it would have brought the cost to more than $600,000, "so this was a bargain," he said.
In a prepared statement, Mayor Wayne Kukich noted that in the past several years McKeesport firefighters — the only paid department in the Mon Valley — have "responded to every incident in this city without the aid of an aerial device on the initial response," creating "a potentially life-threatening situation not only for our citizens but also for our firefighters."
He said the city "has been fortunate … that no one was in need of a rescue above the second floor. If that would have happened, there could have been a serious and fatal delay. This truck is equipped with a 75-foot ladder than can be deployed in one minute."
Bray said McKeesport has about a dozen buildings of four stories or more, "and half of those buildings house senior citizens. Now we have the opportunity to get to higher heights and rescue someone quicker and easier.
"And the most important thing about any fire is time. This truck can be anywhere in our city within three or four minutes, and that gives us time to try to rescue someone instead of recovery."
Kukich said he now is seeking grants, donations and other funding sources to buy firefighters a thermal-imaging camera that could cost as much as $18,000. Such cameras enable firefighters to see through smoke and dark to locate victims more quickly.
All week, a representative of the truck's manufacturer, Emergency One Inc. of Ocala, Fla., has led classroom and hands-on training for McKeesport's firefighters.
Bray said the vehicle will be the first-response truck on the roughly 1,100 calls the department answers annually.
"This truck," he said, "will work and have its tongue hanging out."