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Newberry tanker  DSC7594

City of Newberry firefighters demonstrate the capability of the fire department’s newest pumper trusk as compared to its old one. The new truck carries up to 4,000 gallons of water, a dramatic improvement in the ability of the fire department to extinguish larger fires.. (Today photo/RAY CARSON)

NEWBERRY – On Monday, Dec. 19, a ceremony was held at the Newberry Fire Station to introduce the public to the department’s new acquisition. It is a tanker truck apparatus capable of carrying 4,000 gallons of portable water for putting out fires. The addition of the new tanker provides dramatic improvement to the Newberry Fire Department's (NFD) ability to battle larger fires.

In the past, if a fire occurred in an area without a city water hydrant nearby, the department was limited by its water supply. Fire trucks do not carry water and depend on either hookups to city lines or a tanker truck. The city owned a much smaller tanker truck, but if more water was needed it would have to leave the area to refill, using precious time and possibly leaving the firefighters with no way to continue to battle the blaze until more water arrived.

NFD covers a 64-sq. mile area, much of it rural, with limited access to the city water supply. Due to its increased storage capacity, this new truck will allow the crews to fill a plastic pool known as a dump tank, which the fire engine hoses can draw water from while the tanker refills. This will give the firefighters a constant water supply to fight the fire. This increased capacity can make the difference between saving a structure or watching it be destroyed due to limited water access.

According to Newberry Fire Chief Ben Buckner, the city saw the need for this purchase and budgeted $220,000 from the 2015-16 city funds to purchase this specialized vehicle. “We hope to balance the cost with our increased ability to fight fires and by lowering the insurance rates for city residents,” Buckner said.

Fire insurance rates are based on Insurance Service Office (ISO) standards. The lower the number, the lower the rate charged by insurance companies. If a residence is based within 1,000 feet of a city water hydrant, it is rated as a three. If within five miles, then the rating is a nine. Outside of that coverage area, the insurance rates go even higher and sometimes the structure becomes uninsurable unless it contains its own water suppression system.

According to Buckner, the new tanker will allow property owners to get a three rating within the five-mile classification, which will help lower the fire/property insurance rates for many of the residents in Newberry. “We will make the money back by helping lower insurance rates for our citizens,” Buckner said.

To celebrate this, the NFD offered a demonstration of the new tanker for the public. The ceremony was a traditional event known as a “wet down,” which dates back to the era where fire pumpers were driven by horses and the pumps were hand powered. After a fire, the horses were separated from the wagons and both horses and pumper would be washed down by the firefighters. The wagon would then be pushed back into the station for the next fire. In the present era, a “wet down” signifies placing a new vehicle or apparatus into service.

For this ceremony, a dump tank was set up and both the old tanker and the larger new one pumped water into the tank. The comparison was to demonstrate the difference between the two trucks in speed, volume, ease of use and time. The old truck had a hose that attached to the truck and drew the water out by suction. The new truck has a built in chute at the back of the truck that pumps the water out directly at a much faster speed and volume.

Although NFD must register their new purchase with ISO to be able to qualify homeowners within a five-mile radius to receive a lower rating, the acquisition of the new truck is ultimately expected to lower insurance rates and make it much easier to fight fires effectively...possibly saving lives as well.

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