‘Best pumper city has ever had’
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Most folks might consider an almost-20-year-old vehicle as anything but new. But when it comes to trucks designed for fire suppression operations, one that old is just starting to get broken in.
Atmore Fire Department Chief Ron Peebles said the department’s newest vehicle — a 1999 Spartan pumper bought as a replacement for an AFD unit that was wrecked on December 31, 2016 — should be an effective tool for fighting fires for many years.
“These things are built to last a long time,” he said. “I’ve got a 1984 model out there that’s still going. You can still jump in it and go fight any fire there is. This one should last us a long time.”
The new vehicle was purchased from Bradford Fire Apparatus in Ft. Myers, Fla. Chief Peebles, AFD Capt. Daniel Love, and Streets & Sanitation Director Calvin Grace, who oversees all mechanical work for the city, looked at or checked out five or six others before coming across the one they eventually bought.
“We looked everywhere,” Peebles said. “We wound up going to Ft. Myers because Bradford restores and rebuilds fire trucks, then sells them with a 90-day warranty. We went down there and drove it, pumped it and everything else before we made our decision.”
Bradford even delivered the pumper to Atmore, Peebles added.
The Spartan has more storage space than most newer trucks, as well as a stand-up cab that allows firefighters more room to make final preparations as they race to a fire. The only feature that doesn’t fit the fire chief’s idea of the perfect truck is its 500-gallon water tank.
“I would rather have a 1,000-gallon tank, but it’s getting where we have a lot more hydrants than we used to, so we can hook to a hydrant pretty quickly,” he said. “It has a lot more storage than our other trucks, so we can put a lot more equipment on it.”
Mayor Jim Staff announced in June 2017 that the wrecked AFD pumper would not be replaced, but the discovery of such a deal [the ’99 Spartan cost $65,000] brought about a change of mind.
“I want to thank the mayor and [City Clerk] Becca [Smith] for making this happen,” Peebles said. “This is the best pumper the city has ever had. Brand new, it would have cost $350,000. It’s been a good truck so far, and we at the fire department are mighty proud to have it.”