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Date of Issue: February 08, 2007

New ladder truck gets 'wetting down'

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West Manatee Fire Rescue firefighters "wet down" a new 100-foot ladder truck during a ceremony Feb. 1 at Station 2 on Cortez Road. The ceremony is intended to encourage pride and ownership in the department, said Battalion Chief Dennis Dotson. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff
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WMFR firefighters "push" the big rig into the station house, part of the wetting-down ceremony.
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WMFR Chief Andy Price listens to the radio broadcast in which Ladder 129 was placed into service.
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WMFR firefighter Chris O'Kelly stands with son Aiden, 4, during the ceremony at Station 2.

West Manatee Fire Rescue firefighters christened the newest addition to their fleet Feb. 1 with water, not champagne.

And they used a garden hose on the shining new 100-foot ladder truck, not a high-powered fire hose.

The wetting down ceremony took place at Station 2, 100350 Cortez Road, early Thursday.

The ceremony was a first for WMFR. Battalion Chief Dennis Dotson said the event is intended to promote pride and camaraderie among firefighters.

"The guys come together this way," Dotson said.

The ceremony began at about 8 a.m. inside Station 2. Attending, along with WMFR firefighters and officers, were WMFR commissioners, fire officials from other departments, Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore and the head of the company that built and sold the truck.

"I've been at this 30 years," said Pierce Manufacturing CEO Don Bouwer. "But this is special." The company is headquartered in Bradenton and operates a plant in Appleton, Wis.

WMFR Deputy Chief Brett Pollock welcomed attendees.

WMFR pastor Mark Eveleth, of Cortez Road Baptist Church, delivered an invocation and later blessed the truck.

"It would be great," he said, "if this new apparatus never had to leave this department."

WMFR Commission Chairman Michael Mulyck said, "I'm very proud to be here and very proud of all of you."

WMFR Chief Andy Price then talked about the truck, telling of its technical specs, and the safety and security it brings to the district.

WMFR purchased the rig last year, the authorization provided by WMFR commissioners in March 2006 after a committee review.

The 100-foot ladder truck arrived in Manatee County Nov. 30, 2006, but wasn't put into commission because firefighters needed training.

The truck, which cost $870,000, replaced a 75-foot ladder truck that was sold to a volunteer department in Ohio.

The new truck meets a fairly new need, Price said. The old 75-foot ladder truck could not reach the newer homes in the district that are being built to maximum size, according to the chief.

"You can't just look at the height," Price said, referring to height restrictions for Island buildings. The chief said emergency vehicles sometimes must be parked 25 feet from the structure. So the ladder must reach outward as well as upward.

The old truck also lacked a bucket at the tip of the ladder, creating a one-firefighter limit on the ladder and restricting rescues to one person at a time.

The new truck can carry four firefighters - or bring down several rescued people.

During the wetting-down ceremony that followed the speeches, firefighters from Station 2, where the truck will be housed, sprayed the engine using a garden hose.

Firefighters next pushed the truck into the station, where they listened to a radio announcement from the emergency command center placing Ladder 129 into service at Station 2.

"West Manatee Fire Rescue would like to announce the retirement of Truck 123, asset number 51794, and welcome the new apparatus, Ladder 129, asset 51029," the dispatcher said.

"We would like to wish Truck 123 and Ladder 129, and those assigned to them, a safe journey and the skills necessary to provide the best possible service to our visitors and citizens."

After the ceremony, attendees celebrated with morning refreshments. Firefighters continued to stand around the engine, pointing out its features.

"You can do so much more with it," boasted firefighter/paramedic John Stump, gesturing toward the truck. "And it's safer. And, to me, at night, with the lights, this truck is beautiful."