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Roanoke Rapids A Shift firefighters watched Thursday morning as the president of Fire Connections backed the department’s new pumper into Station 1 on Roanoke Avenue.

“It’s been a long time coming but I’m glad to see it. I’m very excited about seeing it here and getting it here finally,” Chief Jason Patrick said after he and other firefighters went through a preliminary inspection of the pumper.

He said once the remaining equipment is put on the truck he is hopeful that in the next week or so it can be put on the road.

(A wet down ceremony for the new truck is scheduled for July 1 at 6 p.m. at Station 2 where the truck will be based)

Funding for the truck came from a FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant and another truck the department will receive through American Rescue Plan Act funds is on order and tentatively expected for arrival in the fall.

Nate High, one of the new members of the fire department, has never experienced the delivery of a new truck. “It’s pretty cool,” he said. “I’ve never been part of seeing a new truck before. It’s a cool experience that you don’t get to see very often. I’m ready to ride it.”

Battalion Chief Tim Gray, a veteran of the department, said the truck meets his expectations. “We were behind on getting new trucks because of the economy. It’s a nice addition to the fleet and it’s long overdue. With two of them coming in it’s going to put us up to where we should be as far as equipment and apparatus and staying up with the times as far as modern fire equipment.”

Gray has seen the evolution of equipment during his tenure at the fire department through four new trucks. “When I came here we had the 1980 model and before that we had a 1967 pumper. The trucks when I came, all except that newest engine, they were all stick shift. You had to know how to drive a clutch. A lot of people don’t know how to do that now. The old ladder we had, of course, didn’t have a pump on it, it was just a ladder. The rookie firefighters drove the ladder. The ladder didn’t go to anything except Becker Manor and the hospital. You had a lot of mechanical issues with the older trucks to say the least. This is just overdue and it’s exciting to accept this new truck.”

Deputy Fire Marshal Kenneth Hollowell was one of the members of the truck committee. “It’s been a long time coming, 2013 was our last new one. It’s been 11 years. I’m glad to see it because our other engine is showing its age.”

As a member of the committee he said, “I’m glad to be part of this one — this truck and the next truck.”

Hollowell said to spec this truck out was about a six-month job. “We sat down as a group and came up with what we needed and some wants. We got with the E-One guy and got a set of specs and went through the specs. We kept some things and got rid of some things we really didn’t need.”

Hollowell said he is definitely pleased with the truck. “I’ve been one of the lucky ones. I’ve been seeing it being worked on in Rocky Mount. I’ve put my eyes on it more than some of the guys. We kept in touch with the E-One dealer. (Fire Connections President) Travis Mayo looked out after us and told us where it was and the stages that were being built.”

Assistant Chief Richard Cook, also a committee member, said, “I’m feeling pretty good. I’m glad to see it home. We’ve got to tie up a few loose ends, put a few more things on it and hope to get it in service soon.”

Mayo said, first and foremost, the truck brings reliability to the department. “When you get a truck as old as they’ve been using and a citizen calls 911 and they hit the start button on the truck they’ve got to depend on this truck to get them to that incident and mitigate that problem. It was just time to replace a truck that was worn out.”

He said the truck has more pumping capability, more storage capability and more hose-carrying capability as well the ability to carry more extrication tools. “It has more functionality than the other truck ever thought about having.”

Mayo said, “Having a truck that’s reliable is the most important piece of all of it.”