Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 17, 2004

net new

fire truck

By Jaine Treadwell

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The giving of gifts is not a usual part of the tradition of St. Patrick's Day, and it was more than the luck of the Irish that made it possible for the Banks

Volunteer Fire Department to add a new truck to its fleet of fire fighting vehicles.

United Technologies and Sikorsky

Support Services handed over the keys to a leprechaun green fire truck to Banks Mayor Wayne Wilson Tuesday with hopes that it never has to be used.

"I would hope that the truck never has to be used and that all you have to do is keep it shined," said Mike Spears, plant manager.

"We are happy to be able to assist your community with this donation and hope it will be beneficial to the citizens of the Banks area."

Wilson expressed appreciation to Spears, Tony Scott, facilities manager; UT and SSSI for the generous donation.

"These people are strong community supporters and the donation of this fire truck will be very beneficial to our community," he said. "I hope that we don't have to ever use it, too. It would be great if we didn't have any fires to fight, but, when we do, we will now have more capabilities to fight them."

Scott said Wilson has the most seniority of any employee at SSSI, 19 years.

"Wayne approached us about the Banks Volunteer Fire Department's need for an additional truck and the possibility of this truck being donated to it," Scott said. "The truck was brought in here and modified to fight aircraft fires, but it's now out of service. We were proud to be able to make the donation to these volunteer fire fighters and the town of Banks."

Shane Brown, Banks fire chief, said the donated truck will bring the number of vehicles in the Banks Volunteer Fire Department to three, plus a small truck used only for brush fires.

"The addition of this truck plus training and new gear could - should - bring our fire rating down and that would mean a good savings for our residents," he said.

The ISO rating classes go from 10, meaning no rating, to 1 meaning the best.

"Right now Banks has a

9 rating and some insurance companies won't even write a policy for a 9. That's what I've been told. So, if we can lower our rating to a 7, some people could save up to $500 a year on their insurance premiums."

The Banks Volunteer Fire Department is funded solely by its share of the cigarette and tobacco tax, which is about $1,200 a month.

"We were fortunate to get a FEMA grant of $71,000 to purchase turnout gear and air packs," Brown said.

"Even with that amount of money were able to get only 10 of each. Our match for the grant was 10 percent and the town of Banks was very generous in making that money available to us in memory of Larry Henderson who was our mayor and fire chief at the time of his death.

"Without the grant and the support of the town, we would not have been able to get the gear or the air packs that we needed."

The recent training and new equipment combined with the 500-gallon fire truck donated by UT and SSSI will make it possible to meet the ISO requirements for pumping capabilities.

"With the large feed plant within our radius, we are required to be able to carry 2,500 gallons to the site," Brown said. "Until we got the donated truck we could only supply 2,050 gallons. With this truck, we can now supply 2,550 gallons and that will make a big difference in our capabilities and should help to lower our ISO rating."

In the last couple of weeks, the BVFD has responded to 10 brush fires and one structure fire. The population of Banks is 205. The BVFD is responsible for fires that are within a five-mile radius from the fire station.

The volunteer fire fighters also assist with fires in Troy and Brundidge and in Bullock and Barbour counties when needed.