By Travis Sloat
It has been said that good things come in small packages, but the new tanker truck at the Fort Gibson Fire Department is an exception to that rule.
Gifted to the department by the Forestry Service, and barely fitting in the firehouse garage, the 2007 Freightliner is capable of transporting 5,000 gallons of water, and has recently been the recipient of a makeover.
Fort Gibson Fire Chief Larry Cooper said that nearly every department around here has a tanker truck, but they’ve never had one because of storage issues.
“They (the Forestry Service) called me and asked me if I wanted it,” Cooper said. “I had 180 days to get it ready to roll out. This definitely increases my confidence in our ability to fight fires.”
The truck didn’t come ready for action, of course. And the biggest task of all was painting it.
Jeramy Rhoden, who owns Fort Gibson Auto Refinishing, said that he and his partner Wes Benge spent seven paint hours on the truck.
“I’ve been painting for 25 years,” Rhoden said. “This is by far the biggest thing we’ve ever painted.”
Rhoden and Benge donated their time to do this project, which saved the fire department nearly $600.
Muskogee Communications ran wiring and attached the lights to it. All that remains is putting the stickers on it and installing a radio.
Every truck the Fort Gibson FD has is capable of pumping out 1,250 gallons of water per minute. The tank sizes on most of them are only 1,000 gallons.
This means that with nozzles at full pressure, they are capable of draining a truck in less than a minute, which can be cause for concern, depending on the size and location of the fire.
“We had a grass fire on Monday,” Cooper said. “It took nearly 2,500 gallons of water to put out. Grass fires this time of the year take a lot of water because you have to put out every little twig.”
This tanker, however, changes that dynamic. With increased water supply, firefighters will not have to continually refill trucks, which could be the difference in saving or losing a home.
Cooper also said that the truck would come in particularly handy for structure fires where there isn’t a fire hydrant in close proximity.
Ruby Austin, a resident of Fort Gibson, said that she thinks this will be a great asset for our firefighters and our community.
“Natural disasters happen,” she said. “But I for one am proud that we as a community can take care of our needs in an emergency situation.”
Rhoden said that the new tanker is “ideal.”
“Not only is it beneficial to our community,” Rhoden said, “but surrounding areas as well. In my opinion, the Fort Gibson Fire Department has some of the best equipment out there.”
Will moving all that water make for a slow response time? Cooper doesn’t seem to think so.
“There is plenty of truck under that tank,” he said.