Open house reveals aging equipment and innovations in firefighting

Rebekah Lucia, Nevaeh Dykema, Parker Dykema and Bailey Dykema wash a pumper truck at the CVFRS Open House on Saturday. Photo by Lynn Monty.

Bright and early Saturday morning Rebekah Lucia, 9, and Nevaeh Dykema, 10, grabbed hand towels at the Charlotte Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service Station to dry off a freshly washed pumper truck. They were there, with their firefighter families, to welcome the public inside.

Fire Department Captain Devin St. George, 27, said it’s definitely always been a family affair at the station on every occasion. “I have been involved with this department for most if my life,” he said. “Go look at the founding members. There are people there with my last name. My father is the fire chief.”

Visitors at any open house always have very specific questions, St. George said. “Families often want to know how the heavy extrication tool works, you know, the Jaws of Life. They are very interesting apparently.”

But Saturday’s open house was held for one particular reason. It was a quest to inform the public about the 20-year bond for $625,000 to pay for a new pumper truck, to be voted upon on Town Meeting Day.

Fire Chief Dick St. George said the bond translates to an annual tax of approximately $5.30 per $100,000 of household valuation. He gave rides, demos and answered questions throughout the day with help from his volunteer crew.

Without a fire-hydrant system in Charlotte, pumpers filled with water or compressed air foam are required on every call. There are about 200 calls a year. Volunteers demonstrated how the environmentally safe foam works on site. Even Parker Dykema, 4, was able to grab the hose, with a little help from his firefighter friends, to completely cover a tour bus in the parking lot with the white bubbles.

The chief said using the foam is five times more effective than water. It takes down a fire faster, is much easier to handle, and causes less water damage for property owners. Access to pumpers with foam also lowers insurance premiums for homeowners, he said.

The 37-year-old Mack pumper that needs replacing does not have foam capability and also does not have shoulder-strap seat belts, airbags, anti-lock brakes or traction control. It took ten minutes to leave the station on a demo ride due to the aged air brakes. After a slow roll out of the station, the relic got up to a whopping 29 miles per hour.

“Just imagine if we were on our way to a real fire right now,” St. George yelled into the cab.

With no microphones his voice was barely audible over the din of the engine and rattling of aged apparatus. “This truck was two years old when I joined the department,” the chief said. “We pushed it to over 20 years on the front line. The current front-line truck, a 2004 Seagrave, is already aging. And each new truck takes a minimum of a year build time. So the time is now.”

Please note: The Charlotte Volunteer Fire Service will host an open house from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Feb. 23 at the station to answer questions about replacing the 37-year-old Mack pumper truck. Another  meeting on the subject will be held at 6:00 p.m. at CCS on March 6. For more information call (802) 425-3111 or send an email.