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New engines debut
First of three fire trucks goes into operation
4 Fire Engines pic1
Brian Fox of Dawson County Emergency Services displays a spreader on one of the departments three new fire engines. Engine 1, left, went into operation Aug. 31. - photo by James G. Wolfe Jr. Dawson Community News

One of three new fire trucks recently went into operation for Dawson County Emergency Services.

Engine 1, which went into service Aug. 31, will soon be joined by two additional new engines.

Purchased by the county, the 2011 models are replacing one from 1984 and two from 1985.

"Those engines had exceeded their life expectancy and the board of commissioners saw that and voted last year to make the purchase," Fire Chief Lanier Swafford said. "They were purchased on a 12-year lease-purchase plan."

Mike Berg, chairman of the county commission, said the expenditure was a difficult one, but the need outweighed the cost.

"We were at a disadvantage because most of our vehicles are about the same age and they are all just about used up," Berg said. "This will, primarily, give the citizens better services and a greater peace of mind."

Not only will the trucks instill more confidence in residents but in the firefighters themselves.

"Our old trucks and equipment were dependable, but this new stuff is even better," said Emergency Services Capt. Jamerson Kerby.

Firefighter/EMT Larry Robinson said the new equipment, such as upgraded thermal imagers, should help diagnose issues quicker.

"We had [thermal imagers] before that were great, but these new models have features that will really help us," Robinson said. "They're really top of the line."

Berg also noted that while the engines will cost the county about $120,000 per year for the next 12 years, the purchase may help lower other costs.

"The new engines will help our fire rating," Berg said. "The better your fire rating is, the less insurance companies charge you and that's going to be less of a burden that taxpayers have to bear."

Swafford said the older engines were bought at a time when the department had an entirely volunteer force that served about 5,000 residents.

"Now we're a mix of career firefighters and volunteers and we service about 25,000 residents," he said. "The need and function of our department has changed and the new trucks reflect that."

While Swafford said the vehicles won't necessarily make the department better at its job, he does expect them to be an upgrade.

"They should be more reliable and efficient in helping us provide efficient service to the community," he said. "We picked them up from the plant, they've never been used."

In addition to color-coding water lines and switches, there are other benefits to the new engines.

"Soon we will have upgraded medical capability that will enable us to send more complete information to hospitals in a much faster manner," Swafford said.