The magnificent, 3,000-gallon tanker truck soon to be shipped from the Rochester Fire Department to the tornado-ravaged community of Cayce, Kentucky, has been a gem of a piece of equipment for many years already.
Acquired from Kent Island, the largest in the Chesapeake Bay, approximately 12 years after the 1988 tanker was built for the Maryland town; the Rochester Fire Department adapted, retrofitted and otherwise repaired the truck to maximize its ability and capacity to serve a town without fire hydrants.
That’s exactly what Cayce needs in the wake of the December 10 tornado that ripped through the rural southwestern Kentucky town of 119 people, flattening buildings, including its fire department only a couple of miles from the Mississippi River.
“I live 2 miles from the station, and I watched it walk right across my station,” said Cayce Fire Chief Wayne Adams. “When I topped the hill and (I) could see the station it was a pile of rubble.”
An email went out from the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts, and Rochester Fire Chief Scott Weigel knew Cayce’s answer was waiting for the right moment the past 18 months.
“When I saw the email from Mike (Winn) at FCAM, I immediately knew that we had the means to be able to assist in fulfilling what was a pretty tall order,” said Weigel in a statement about the event. “I knew that I had the support from my department and all I needed was the authorization from the Town Select Board to release the truck into surplus and then prepare it for transport to Cayce, KY.”
An emergency meeting of the Rochester Select Board was called, the vote was taken and preparations immediately commenced to make the surplus vehicle ready for transport.
Weigel reported that members of the Rochester Fire Department spent the evening of the Select Board meeting cleaning and preparing the truck for delivery, and the Rochester Highway Department made needed repairs in what has been a group effort.
“We are overjoyed to be able to assist our brothers and sisters in Kentucky. God knows they have had it rough, and their road ahead will be a tough one. If our donation can help give them a jump start, then that’s what we want to be a part of,” said Weigel.
News spread like wildfire and even put the Town of Rochester on a national news telecast last weekend after a Boston affiliate reported the story.
The Town of Rochester was able to donate the big machine because the truck was replaced about a year and a half ago by a modern, E1 model. The town can donate it with confidence thanks to two decades of first-hand experience with its durability.
“This is not the first time that we have donated spare surplus apparatus to other agencies in need,” said Weigel, noting that Rochester donated a surplus 1992 Horton Ambulance to the Town of Northfield EMS in 2013. “They suffered an accident with their only ambulance, and they did not have the budget to purchase one and were using borrowed spare ambulances from surrounding communities.”
While details were still being worked out with Middleboro-based RYCO Excavation, which has volunteered to transport the tanker truck to Kentucky at no charge, the National Guard has also expressed interest in helping make sure the tanker truck makes it to Cayce.
By Mick Colageo