By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
If Ron Peebles isn’t the happiest man in Atmore, he’s one of the happiest.
The city fire chief’s jubilation comes from the performance of his department’s two newest trucks — including Atmore Fire Department’s first brand new fire truck in a quarter-century — and the anticipated performance of two new sets of rescue tools.
“Equipment-wise, this is the best this department has ever been,” Peebles said after the recent additions of a 2021 model brush truck and a 2002 model tanker. “I’m the happiest chief in the world right now because I’ve got stuff none of the rest of them [former fire chiefs] ever had. We’ve got stuff now that a lot of bigger departments don’t even have.
“We’re really blessed that the city council, the mayor and the city clerk have seen fit to provide what we’ve needed.”
City Clerk Becca Smith said officials realize and respect the importance of the department and the tools it has for use in emergency situations.
“We’re trying to make sure our fire department gets the sort of equipment it needs to provide for our citizens,” Smith said. “We want them to have the equipment they need to save lives.”
The most recent addition to AFD’s fire-fighting fleet, the brush truck, was purchased last October for $138,995 but only arrived about three weeks ago. Peebles said it proved itself before it was even officially put into service.
“This is the first brand new fire truck of any kind we’ve had since 1997,” he said before relating the vehicle’s maiden response, on January 18. “We hadn’t even trained on it yet, and I had taken it to (a local company) to look over how we could put the radio in it. I hadn’t been there 10 minutes when a call came out that we had a vehicle on fire on U.S. 31.”
A de-barking machine on a tandem-axle trailer was ablaze, and all the other AFD units were tied up, so Peebles responded in the new truck when Mayor Jim Staff called him to report the fire.
“The truck didn’t even have a radio yet, so if I hadn’t had a cell phone, I wouldn’t have known,” said the fire chief. “The mayor called me, and I just went.”
The tanker, which holds 2,500 gallons of water, was purchased prior to the end of 2021 for $112,000. It, too, proved its value right off the bat.
Just three days after being put into service, the new tanker was dispatched to assist Poarch Creek Indians Fire Department in fighting twin mobile home blazes on Truth Circle, a rural area near Interstate 65.
The closest hydrant was a little more than a mile away. Such a situation would normally require that firefighters shuttle water back and forth from the hydrant, but the tanker provided enough water that such shuttling wasn’t necessary.
“We love our new tanker,” Peebles said. “We’ve used it on seven or eight fires already, and it has done what it’s supposed to do every time.”
Possibly of even more value are the two new sets of Holmatro extrication tools that arrived last week. A demonstration of the new rescue equipment, along with a certification class that included all city firefighters, was held last Friday, January 28, at David’s Paint & Body.
“All of my guys are getting extrication certificated, plus they’re getting instruction on the tools,” Peebles said during the dual session. “We’re having a class and getting to use our new tools at the same time.”
Luke Reeves, a rescue tool specialist with North American Fire Equipment Company and a certified extrication instructor, provided the dual lessons. Reeves said the new prying and cutting tools are “100-percent battery operated,” and Peebles said the batteries are obviously strong ones.
“We’ve been cutting for two hours, and the lowest battery just has two bars gone off it,” he said.