MARSTON — Although it’s been in service for a year, the newest addition to the Hoffman Fire Department’s fleet is still a “work in progress.”
Chief Frank McKay said he recognized several years ago the need for a vehicle that would better prepare the department to handle woods fires.
Following a fire off U.S. 1, he said, “We realized we didn’t want to take our other stuff in that kind of environment.”
The 5-ton former Army truck — used at Fort Lee, Virginia — was donated to the department through the N.C. Forest Service Volunteer Fire Assistance Program.
They picked up the truck in December of 2013 and began conversions the following month, completing the build in July, with all the work being done by the department and select members of the community.
“I’ve got blood, sweat, tears and a little bit of everything in that truck,” said Assistant Chief Franklin McKay, who wired “every inch” of the vehicle. “I did the initial drawings…we didn’t vary much from it.”
They outfitted the truck with a 2,000-gallon tank, which carries the most water of any of the department’s vehicles, after taking off the bed.
The chief said most departments leave the bed on, but by taking it off, it lowers the weight and center of gravity, “which is always good.” Franklin McKay added that they wanted to go with a long, narrow tank to help with the weight distribution.
After completing most of the body work, the truck was sent to Piedmont Correctional Facility to be painted. The chief said he wasn’t initially thrilled with the darker red color, but has since gotten used to it.
It came back on March 1, 2015, was in service 10 days later, but wasn’t used in its first fire until June — before it had flashing lights or striping, and only had one hose.
Now the truck features LED lights and a foam-induction system and carries a 500-foot hydrant line, hard tubing to draw from a static water source, a chainsaw and air packs. The bottom equipment door on the passenger side also doubles as a standing platform to reach the top equipment door.
Franklin McKay also placed lights at the bottoms of each door to help guide firefighters climbing in and out of the vehicle. In addition, there is a backup camera and they have another camera for the front that is not yet installed.
“I like to think outside the box,” he said. “We put a lot of thought and effort into it to make it as safe as we could.”
Underneath the department’s logo on the doors is sticker acknowledging that the truck was donated through the VFAP.
“They were nice enough to give us the truck, we put a sticker on for them,” Franklin McKay said.
The chief said the truck — which is kept at the Marston station — is the pride of the fleet, not only because of its multi-purpose capabilities, but because of all the work they put into it.
“If you invest labor and time into something,” he said, “you tend to value it more than something you bought.”
Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.