After more than a year of waiting, Harlem firefighters have a new pumper truck.
In June 2002, the Harlem Fire Department ordered the $186,000 M2 model Class-A pumper truck from Emergency One Fire Systems in Lawrenceville, Ga. Harlem firefighters finally got to drive it to the Harlem station last month.
"We have been anticipating it," Chief Raymond Fulcher said. "We have really been wanting it to get here. We are in good shape as far as fighting fires. We have two other Class-A pumpers, but we were really wanting to get this one in."
Before the new vehicle arrived, the department's youngest truck was more than 15 year old, Fulcher said.
"We were in need of a new truck," Fulcher said. "When you get an emergency service vehicle that has that many years on it, you just don't know when something is going to go wrong mechanically."
Money from the county's one-cent sales tax contributed $175,000 toward the truck, with the rest of the money coming out of the fire department budget, Harlem City Manger Jean Dove said.
But the four-door cab truck has one problem. It must be driven slowly and at the just the right angle to get over the high crown of the Sawdust Road and Gordon Highway railroad crossing, which is the quickest route to Sawdust Road, County Line Road and areas farther down the county line.
The department could use the Verdery Road crossing, which also is a quick way to reach the area, but it was closed by the county because of the space it allows and the lack of warning bells and crossing arms, said Kevin Lear, director of Columbia County's Roads and Bridges Division.
The fire department was given a key to the locked gate at Verdery Road to use in emergencies instead of going two miles out of the way to another crossing if the truck can't cross Sawdust Road.
"We got it, but we are not happy about the situation. We have to stop and open the gate to get to that part of town," said Fulcher of the Verdery Road crossing, which he considers the flattest and safest in town and with the best train visibility.
The new 1,250-gallons-per-minute pumper is one of two new emergency vehicles the city's fire department recently purchased. It also bought a $10,000 a specially equipped Ford F-350 box truck as a first-responder vehicle.
"We are trying to plan for the future," Fulcher said. "We are wanting to build a satellite station toward White Oak Campground area. This would give us a truck to put out there.
"We are looking down the road as far as we need so we can stay on top of everything."
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