Cumberland Really Needs To Purchase A New Tanker Truck And Upgrade 911

Published 3:09 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2013

There is a house fire in Cumberland County.

The Randolph Volunteer Fire Department responds with its tanker truck.

Halfway to the fire, the tanker truck breaks down.

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The house burns to the ground.

A total loss.

That tragic scenario has not happened yet.

But it might.

The 2,100-gallon tanker truck has twice had to be towed back to the station because it broke down. Both times it was after responding to a fire-a brush fire, in each instance-thankfully not in route to help firefighters who must have water to quench devouring flames.

There are 1,500 homes in the Randolph Volunteer Fire Department's coverage area and the volunteer firefighters continue to do all that is within their power to keep the tanker truck on the road.

“Everything is worn out” on the vehicle, Deputy Fire Chief Terry Spillman told The Herald.

The tanker is so old, and it leaks water, that finding replacement tires is a real challenge, according to Fire Chief Roy Garrett.

The fire department has requested funding for a new tanker in Cumberland County's Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and the County's Planning Commission has endorsed such an appropriation. Now it is up to the Board of Supervisors.

There is no question the Randolph Volunteer Fire Department desperately needs a new tanker truck. More to the point, the men, women and children who live in those 1,500 homes need the County to fund the purchase of a new tanker truck.

The cost of a new tanker truck is approximately $337,000. Yes, that's a lot of money but we're talking about water to protect homes that have a combined worth of well over $100 million.

And there is the not so insignificant matter of the lives of the people living in those 1,500 homes.

How could the County live with itself were someone to die in a fire in which the tanker truck broke down before it could arrive on the scene?

The County would find a way somehow.

The victim would not.

The fire department would be happy if the County funded the purchase of a used tanker truck that might cost $80,000 to $100,000. That's the spirit firefighters bring to their jobs. Excuse me, I meant to say, their life spent volunteering to risk their own lives to protect the lives and property of those they are not paid a penny to protect.

They should at least be provided with adequate, dependable equipment.

The Randolph Volunteer Fire Department does not have a tanker truck able to meet that minimum expectation.

There is a reason. One that is plain and simple. The vehicle's days are done.

When the fire department's tanker truck was built, the Vietnam War had been over for only a handful of months.

The Beatles hit number two on Billboard's charts with their Rock 'n' Roll Music album. The Beatles. An album. Not a CD. A twelve-inch plastic record. The Beatles were kept from the number one chart position by Paul McCartney, then on his first American tour.

Barack Obama was in middle school.

The Vatican was home to Pope Paul VI.

The American Basketball Association was still playing hoops.

Washington, D.C. was just opening its underground Metro system.

Jimmy Carter was president.

The New York Yankees had still not won a World Series since 1962.

Joe Torre was playing for the New York Mets.

NASA's space shuttle program, which is now over and out, was still five years from its first launch.

And the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women as priests and bishops.

The fire department's current tanker truck was built when Cumberland County was celebrating, along with Americans across the country, our nation's bicentennial.

The year 1976 was ages ago.

It is time for Cumberland County to make a declaration of the Randolph Fire Department's independence from the fear that its tanker truck will break down on the way to the next house fire.

A declaration the people living in those 1,500 homes will quite easily learn to live with.

Of course, if the County's aging 911 system doesn't also get the upgrades it needs-there is soldering, de-soldering, and repair work almost on a monthly basis-the tanker truck may not ever be summoned to the fire that will see it breakdown while trying to respond and save lives anyway.