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New engine adds to forest’s firefighting arsenal

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Personnel, equipment ready to back up local departments

By VINCE LUECKE, Editor

TELL CITY – A new fire engine just placed into service at the Hoosier National Forest Ranger Station in Tell City offers federal firefighters a powerful tool in controlling blazes and in conducting prescribed fires. It also stands ready to aid local fire departments in a nine-county area.

“Its job is to take us and our gear to where we need to be,” said Ryan Otto, a fire engine captain for the forest. The extended-cab Ford truck delivers plenty of power, offers four-wheel drive to get firefighters to the scene and plenty of room for supplies.

The new engine, a light green in color, replaces another one nearly 10 years old that has logged nearly 100,000 miles.

The engine carries 300 gallons of water, but its pumps allow it to refill its tank from ponds, lakes or collapsible holding pools used by rural departments. Its pumps can deliver that water through large hoses connected to the truck’s tank and through smaller-diameter ones firefighters can carry to the scene in backpacks. Instead of having to handle the hoses, they can be placed in backpacks to deploy as firefighters walk to the scene.

The engine also has separate compartments for hand tools, chain saws, hoses and fuel.

In addition to fighting wildfires, the truck will also be useful for prescribed fires the forest conducts during spring and fall. The fires help maintain openings for wildlife and help to maintain some species of valuable trees, such as oaks.

Hoosier National Forest firefighters have responsibilities in nine counties, including Perry, and they also provide aid to local volunteer fire departments. That means the new truck will be a national resource that stands ready when needed in the community.

The old engine will eventually be sold by the government as surplus property while its pump could be donated to a volunteer fire department. Otto said those plans haven’t been finalized.

For more information on the Hoosier National Forest, visit www.fs.fed.us/r9/hoosier/.