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By Cynthia Haggitt
Volunteering as an EMT/Firefighter is an incredibly gratifying and rewarding experience. It’s an opportunity to serve your community and provide lifesaving services to those in need. Most firestations, like Quarry, Elsah and Mississippi (QEM) Fire Department, in Elsah have different types of firetrucks. Recently QEM has acquired a new fire truck called a brushtruck.
“What they are is a smaller version of a fire truck. Obviously, they’re designed with specific specifications and what they’re used for is to go out and fight fires,” QEM Fire Chief Gerry New said. “Most of them are four wheel drive units so they can get around on and around field terain. They’re lighter vehicles.”
New mentioned that trucks like their new brush truck can carry anywhere from 200 to 500 gallons of water.
“ This particular truck has a 250 gallon water tank on it and it also has a high pressure pump. The interesting story behind this truck is that this is not a brand new truck,” New said. “This truck had never seen a fire until we picked it up. Department up north near Chicago bought three of them. And this is a 2015 model. Actually, they bought three of them, and as soon as they got them, they decided they didn’t want them. I guess these sat in the garage until two months ago. Three months ago, maybe. And they decided they were going to get rid of them.”
New explained that the fire department dropped the price on the brush truck that QEM acquired. “ It dropped considerably and one of our trustees on our board was at a convention near Springfield. The broker was there. They got to talking and because QEM had been talking about replacing their other brusher unit he mentioned that QEM might be interested.
“So they started talking back and forth about the truck and we got it for a good price. What is interesting is there were still little knobs on the tires and the interior smelled brand new. The truck only had a thousand miles on it when we bought it. So it’s basically a five year, six year old -new truck, which is pretty amazing. We just kind of literally fell into this acquisition and for us it saved alot of money,” New said.
He exclaimed that a brush truck like this would probably cost about $200,000 and QEM made the purchase for less than $100,000. So the department jumped on it.
“The truck, we hope, will last the department for about 15 to 20 years of course we have to worry about replacing this vehicle because the other brush truck we have is not going to last that long. We’ve already had it for ten years,” New said. “This truck is a multifunction, multi use truck. It responds second out on grass fires. What I mean with that is, it is a second dog unit. The Primary brush truck is the one sitting over there in the corner in the garage.”
He said,’’ This thing does go first out for medical calls. We do respond to EMS with your community ambulence or to anything else that is coming up. So we keep all of our medical equipment on here and we also use this as a second depending on a vehicle accident. We do carry the spreaders and hydraulic readers. There is a set on here and we also have a set on the other truck that is in the shop.“
New said as far as medical work, we have two paramedics, one in the department and himself.
“We can function as a paramedic unit but we just don’t transport,” he said. “We’ve used the newer truck quite a bit already and it has turned out to be a very nice vehicle.”
QEM has several different trucks available for their use besides the new brush truck. New explained that one of their first trucks was given to them by the Screen Bay Fire Protection District which is near the Springfield area. He said they were going to sell it and decided they would give it to somebody who wants it.
“ We just kind of fell into that thing. We’ve used it a number of times since it’s an older truck, but it still passes NFPA specifications for pump testing and everything.” New said.
“We put it back in service over here and behind it, which is a 2008 Model International. It was bought. Well, we picked it up in 2012. It was four years old and we got it. It too
had never seen a fire at all. An oil company bought five trucks, sent them over to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia does not produce the low solver diesel fuels. So it sat on the Loading dock for four years and when it came back over to the United States we picked it up.”
The station also does search and rescue missions. They have a boat that can fight fires also on the river if needed when it is not in use rescuing people. They also have an off-road vehicle that is used during grass fires, rescue work in the field and use it for hunters who may have an accident.
“ It’s capable of going virtually anywhere. We use it a lot. We also have another brush truck that has seen a lot of use and it is older than the new truck. We also have a tanker truck which carries 2500 gallons of water and yes it’s a lot of water to carry but remember We’re in a rural setting, so there are places that we have to bring our own water to us.” New said.
New said the QEM Fire Department is a teaching facility and it is in conjunction with Lewis & Clark Community College constructed a new fire station, training facility and burn tower.
“The contract however will end this year and then we are taking over the department for training and teaching.” New said. “ Our facility consists of 30 acres that is owned by the fire department.”
Here is what is located on the grounds besides their equipment:
The burn tower, as part of the new Lewis & Clark Training Facility, it is a prefabricated steel structure that is located on site.
The 12,800 sq. ft. fire station consists of a pre-engineered four-bay drive through apparatus bay, and a one-story wood framed office area consisting of a 1,000 sq. ft. training room and assembly room, kitchen, day room, public restrooms, conference room, control room and offices.
The site has a 1 to 2 acre man-made lake for water rescue training and plans for the future consisting of confined space training, truck drivers training, maintenance building and helipad.
New mentioned that the decision to be a volunteer responder is something that will touch your entire family, in some ways you may expect and in other ways you may not.
“While any volunteer work is noble, charitable, and honorable, volunteer firefighting goes beyond the average volunteer work. It becomes a lifestyle.” he said.