Robbins Gets Fancy New Fire Engine
One of the newest, most advanced fire engines — and the first of its kind in Moore County — recently rolled into Robbins.
The town’s new urban interface pumper/tanker, No. 115, pulled up between the Old Elise Depot and the present fire station to a warm welcome from Fire Chief Jarius Garner and other firefighters.
“This truck is going to be great for all the farmsteads out in our community,” Garner said. “With all-wheel-drive capability, we will be able to get into some of those areas where before we were kindly restricted sometimes.”
Dirt roads, sometimes muddy, can slow or even block firefighters from reaching a home or other structure in time to save it. Robbins serves a rural fire district with many such places to protect as well as urban areas inside city limits.
The town fire department needed equipment able to deal with fires far from hydrants and often well off paved roads, and this new engine will help, according to Garner.
Built by K.M.E. Kovatch, the new vehicle will enable volunteers to fight fires they would otherwise not be able to reach, or fight as quickly or effectively. It has a shorter wheel base, designed to truck safely up rough rural roads or even cross country to reach a blaze.
“The only thing they have now is something like a pickup size where they can’t get out to fight fires out there,” said John Slagle. “Other trucks might not make it in, whereas this can get them in and get them home. These other trucks are not all-wheel drive”
Slagle brought the new equipment down to Robbins from Slagle Fire Equipment in South Boston, Va. He extolled the added capability it brings to fighting rural fires in outlying sections of the upper Moore district covered by the town fire department.
“This is a new fire engine for Robbins Fire Department,” Slagle said. “This is a fire engine, not a firetruck. This is a new K.M.E. fire apparatus right here. It is an ‘urban interface’ engine. That is where a city fire department will go to fight rural fires, especially in the growth area right around the city here.”
Robbins now has the first such piece of equipment anywhere around, according to Slagle.
“It is a little bit unique,” he said. “It’s probably the first urban interface truck in the county right here today. It has a thousand gallons of water in it and is carrying a 1,500-gallon pump It can seat five firefighters ready to go to fight fire.”
Robbins obtained the modern engine with help from a Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) grant, because this level of machine will add increased protection for rural property around Robbins. The Town Board took the final step last week at its March meeting when commissioners approved a budget amendment releasing money from the general fund balance to pay for it.
It won’t go on duty right away, according to Garner.
“First, we have to make sure everybody has been checked out and trained on it,” Garner said. “Once that’s done, it will move to the front of the line when we get a rural fire.”
That means dispatch operators at the county 911 center will have “Robbins FD 115” at the top of their list for rural fire response.
Once Slagle and Garner had taken care of the paperwork, keys were passed over and firefighters piled into seats in both sections of the crew cab. Garner sat in back and gave the signal, then the engine rumbled to a roar and 115 headed off down across the tracks on Rockingham Street and out into the country for a brief shakedown cruise.
Later, its distant deep-throated purr could be heard signaling No. 115’s return approach as it climbed Middleton Street, rolled around the old depot and back into view. Its size meant its first back-in to the old station bays was apt to be tricky — but that was deftly handled and 115 smoothly settled in with inches to spare.
Robbins expects to start work on its new station later this year, Garner said. The town will build its first ever stand-alone station with money from a U.S. Department of Agriculture combined grant and loan to cover the $1.2 million cost.
Contact John Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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