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West Bend’s Bravest Benefit From Palo Alto County Gaming Development Grant Funds

By Staff | Apr 14, 2009

WEST BEND – In the world of public safety, the need to be able to respond at a moment’s notice is crucial to the mission of public safety agencies. For fire fighters, being able to respond quickly to a fire call with equipment that is adequate to meet the challenge is a huge part of the task of protecting the public.

In West Bend, the volunteer firefighters had a dilemma – a 34 year old pumper truck that needed to be replaced because it wasn’t as reliable as it needed to be.

“We applied for one of the Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation Grants in 2007 to help replace the truck,” explained West Bend Fire Chief Brian Bormann. “We were fortunate to receive a grant of $75,000, so we went shopping for a good, used replacement fire truck.”

Sounds like a simple proposition – right?

Not so.

The West Bend firefighters had the easiest part of their task handled – raising the $25,000 match funds for the PACGDC grant. Finding a replacement would become a great adventure for the department.

“It took us almost an entire year to find a good used truck,” Bormann explained. “We contacted fire apparatus manufacturers, but most of the trucks they had weren’t what we needed in a rural department.”

Today, many fire departments in more urban environments, purchase trucks with four-door cabs that can transport four or five firefighters at a time. Newer trucks also have large capacity, high volume pumps, for connecting to fire hydrants and city water systems, and usually just a small 500 gallon water tank on board to provide a temporary water source until the pump is connected to a hydrant.

That doesn’t work out in the country when a barn is on fire.

“We were looking for a truck with a pump that pumped about 1,250 gallons of water a minute, and a tank that would hold at least a thousand gallons of water,” Bormann explained. “We looked all over the country on the internet, and finally, only two businesses ever got back to us.”

One of those businesses was deep in the heart of Dixie – Union Grove, Alabama.

“The fellow from Brindlee Mountain Fire Apparatus called me and said ‘I think I’ve got what you’re looking for,” Bormann recalled. “We got on the Internet, looked at the pictures of the truck, and we decided to buy it, sight unseen. It was a huge leap of faith on our part, but I’d checked on the company’s references, and they were very good.”

According to Bormann, the Dickens Fire Department had purchased a truck from the firm, and told their brothers in West Bend that they could believe what they were told by the firm. “That’s pretty much what sealed the deal,” Bormann said.

With the purchase arranged, Bormann and fellow firefighter Clinton Schneider flew to Alabama on Feb. 12 to pick up a 2004 Freightliner with two-man cab, just 15,000 miles of use, a 1,250 gallon per minute Central States Fire Apparatus pump and 1,000 gallon water tank, complete with quick dump feature. “It was everything we wanted, a perfect replacement for the old truck,” Bormann said.

Bormann and Schneider then began the two-day drive home to West Bend, arriving home on Valentine’s Day with the WBFD’s new sweetheart.

Of course, there were moments on the trip home.

“We stopped in St. Louis one night at a motel to spend the night, and the desk clerk got a little excited,” Bormann laughed. “He came running out, ‘I didn’t call the fire department!’ and we told him we just wanted a room for the night. ‘OK, but please park the truck around the back so we don’t scare off any customers!”

The new truck is ready to respond to any fire call, and the members of the West Bend Fire Department are thankful for the PACGDC grant that made it possible.

“All the way through this process, things just fell into place for us,” Bormann said. “But, I can’t say enough about the Gaming Development Board. They worked with us and gave us some leeway when we were having problems finding a truck and they were just so supportive of what we did. The community and the department are so thankful for the opportunity to upgrade our equipment, and continue to provide protection for our citizens. We’ll never be able to thank them enough for this grant.”