Custom $450,000 pumper truck designed with firefighters in mind

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If you didn't see the red and black truck pull into the fire station on Montreat Road Aug. 29, you probably likely heard the sirens. They were blaring as the department's new engine made its entrance.

Those who didn't get a chance to see the newest addition to the Black Mountain Fire Department's fleet will almost certainly see the truck in action. It will likely be deployed more than any other vehicle the department has.

"This truck is a first-out pump truck, so that means anything in town that catches on fire, this is the first one out the door" said chief Steve Jones, as he offered a look at the custom $425,000 KME truck (the vehicle cost another $125,000 to equip) that the town bought from money set aside in the budget since 2013. "This will be the most used truck in the station. It's a very important truck."

The engine is one of three vehicles the department sends out first on fire calls, according to Jones. There is another pumper at the substation on White Pine Drive and a 4-wheel drive truck that is the first out for fires on the mountains "where these big trucks can't get to," he said.

The pump truck that the new truck replaces downtown will be used at the substation on White Pine Drive. The pumper that currently services that station, which has been in use for nearly 25 years, will be decommissioned, according to Jones. Pump trucks last about 20 years, he said.

"This one is basically what we call the city truck or the town truck," Jones said of the department's latest acquisition. "It will pump 2,000 gallons of water per minute, and it holds 750 gallons of water."

The fully customized truck was designed by Jones and the department over a six-month period, and took 360 days for the Pennsylvania branch of KME Fire Apparatus to build. The designs were done "with the firefighters in mind," Jones said.

"We choose what kind of length we want, what kind of height we want, right wheelbase for the town, the angle of departure, which from the rear tire to the back bumper," he said of the process. "This truck is designed to work in Black Mountain."

Not only were the specifications for the four-man engine created with the town in mind, but specific aesthetic features were too. Above the black pump control panel adorned with gauges and switches, Jones pointed out a feature that was added by Safe Industries, the dealer through which the truck was purchased. It's a bright red depiction of the Seven Sisters mountain range with the words "Black Mountain Fire" underneath.

"(Former Black Mountain deputy fire chief) Craig Bannerman designed this for us," Jones said. "We didn't know it would be on here until it was delivered. We really like it."

Another visual design element of the vehicle pays homage to former chief Gary Bartlett, who Jones worked under for 30 years.

"He retired around 2007, and a little bit after that he and I were standing here talking and I told him I hoped one day, in my time as chief, I got to what we call 'do' a truck," Jones recalled. "He said he'd always wished he had a black roof on a fire truck. I told him then if I ever built one I'd do a black roof. When we sat down to do the design I remembered that conversation, and our firefighters wanted something in the design that was unique to this generation."

Jones said his department is "proud to have this truck."

"The last time we got a new custom truck was in 2004," he said. "And, very importantly, this truck is paid for. I'm very proud that the board and town manager were able to do that. It makes me proud of our town."

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