Chief Ian Leslie stands beside Engine 11; slated for replacement in 2018. Leslie insists his crews have never nicknamed the reliable old piece of equipment. (photo/ Tim Collins)

Ol’ Sparky moving on

Vanderhoof eagerly awaits new fire truck

If it were a Disney-type animated feature, the departure of Engine 11 from the Vanderhoof Fire Hall would be accompanied by the strains of sentimental music as the anthropomorphous veteran rolled slowly out the door. Ideally, the Engine’s story (lets call him Sparky) would carry a happy sub-plot that ended with Engine 11 finding a new life’s purpose in another fire department where Sparky manages to save wide eyed orphans or puppies from a serious conflagration.

Of course, none of that is likely to happen in real life.

Vanderhoof Fire Chief Ian Leslie insists that the Department has never even nick-named Engine 11 and that, even after 25 years of service, there won’t be any sad feelings when the replacement engine arrives in about 11 months time and the old engine is retired.

“It was just time to replace that engine – we had to. Every 25 years engines have to be replaced in order to comply with the insurance underwriters certification we have. It’s just something that happens,” explained Leslie.

The new fire truck was approved for purchase by District Council on February 13 and the replacement was ordered the next day.

“We had already put out an RFP (request for proposal) for the delivery of a new truck, so we were set to go. It’ll take the Abbotsford manufacturer about 5 months to get the modified Freightliner chassis, and then the truck will be custom built to our specifications,” said Leslie, adding that every truck is built to the buyer’s needs and operational standards and is equipped with specialized suspension and brakes, among other improvements.

He said that the Vanderhoof fire department needed to be careful about the height and length of the unit so it would fit into the fire hall and that the new engine needed to have its equipment located in positions that matched the configuration of the existing trucks.

“We’re a totally volunteer department (only the Chief is paid) with 28 members, so we have to be thinking about ease of training our firefighters,” said Leslie, noting that there is always a regular turnover of volunteers as some members may find paid fire fighting positions elsewhere or may be called away to work on fighting forest fires,” said Leslie.

“We’re always looking for new volunteers and would love to get above 30 fire fighters on our list.”

The new engine comes on the heels of another innovation last year that saw the installation of a high tech computer monitoring system that maps out the location and contact information of every business in Vanderhoof and maintains a data base of calls for the department.

Last year the fire department responded to 141 calls, some of which involved highway rescue and which included call outs to a variety of locations in a rather broad geographic area beyond the District of Vanderhoof.

While the retiring truck was purchased 25 years ago for what was then the princely sum of $108,000, the new truck will cost the municipality a total of slightly more than $520,000.

Coincidentally, the manufacturer of the new engine is the same one who created Sparky … we mean Engine 11 … in the first place, a quarter century ago.

Of course, it’s always possible that the sub-plot mentioned earlier may even come to pass for the old engine. Leslie explained that the old Engine 11 will be put up for sale to a smaller fire department, or even an independent buyer, but isn’t expected to fetch more than about $8,000.

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