Tradition Welcomes New Fire Engine to Lake County
by Brennan Ruegg, Leadville Today Contributor
Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue (LLCFR) welcomed its newest member Wednesday, Aug 31, to a reception of community cheers and tradition. Pierce Fire Engine 1, still gleaming after a two-day journey from Appleton, Wisc., entered Leadville city limits at precisely 10:58 a.m., and is anticipated to serve Lake County for the next 20 years.
The $700,000 apparatus, built by Pierce Manufacturing, spent two-and-a-half years in the making after the need was first recognized in 2014. Pierce Fire Engine 1 will replace the 13-year-old Sutphen Engine as the first due. The new apparatus is equipped with features optimal for Lake County’s specific needs: extra horsepower for climbing, 250 extra gallons of water capacity for the remoteness of some locations in the county, and an Onspot automatic tire-chain system for the blizzards the truck will no doubt weather.
A host of traditions christened the new engine, some dating to the earliest days of emergency service. Bells have always been significant in the practices of fire departments from the town alarm to the Tolling of the Bell Ceremony, which honors the fallen firefighter at his funeral or welcomes a new apparatus. The bell at the Old Church in downtown Leadville tolled as Pierce Engine 1 rolled down Harrison Avenue with Fire Chief Dan Dailey at the wheel, followed by a procession of Fire Marshall Steve Boyle, representatives of St. Vincent Hospital, Sheriff Fenske, and Police Chief Glenny. But there were a few more steps before Pierce finally entered the station.
Half of the water from the old engine was filled into the new one. The same water was then used to spray the new engine in what’s called a “Wetdown”, which is very much like a Baptism. All members of the community participated in drying and shining before Jason Horning of Cornerstone Church and Kevin Martschinske, chaplain of Black Hawk Fire Dept. and former Assistant LLCFR Chief, blessed the engine and the LLCFR Company with bowed heads. A radio transmission across all bands announced the availability of service and thanked those that participated in escorting the apparatus to its new home. Finally, it was pushed into the station three times: Once for God, once for country, and once for company!
The community then enjoyed an enormous spread of food provided by Cookies with Altitude, as the firemen acquainted themselves with the engine and answered questions posed by interested townsfolk.
Since all the first traditions were fulfilled, maybe too will the last: a bit of unofficial firefighting lore that predicts the engine will be hit, dinged, crashed, or damaged within its first week, and then never again until the end of its service. Keep an eye out for this sharp new addition to the LLCFR, but stay out of it’s way. It has a very important job to do.
A Great Deal of Thanks is due to Phyllis Carnahan who has volunteered with LLCFR for several years and in many capacities, and who arranged the food, balloons, and bruhaha. She rode passenger in Pierce 1 on the final leg of its journey from Copper Mountain to Leadville.
For more information about LLCFR visit their facebook, or call (719)486-2990.
Brennan Ruegg drives a 1.5 L Honda engine