Grass, roadway fire keep crews busy

David Faries

Quick response allowed crews to extinguish two small fires, one in an unexpected location.

On Sunday, just after 10 a.m., a grass fire ignited in the 1300 block of Sannebeck Drive in Mexico. Members of the Mexico Public Safety Department found that a resident had been burning some trash and the fire grew beyond his control. Fire crews jumped on the flames before they could cause any property damage.

A more unusual incident occurred on Thursday of last week. At 12:38 p.m. a MPSD officer on patrol spotted a vehicle pulling a trailer in the 900 block of East Liberty. In the trailer were bits of scrap metal, wood and yard waste, as well as a smoldering fire. Again, fire crews arrived and knocked it out before flames could spread to the trailer itself.

There were no injuries reported from either incident.

The Little Dixie Fire Protection District is operating with a new, modern fire engine. There are sets of quick attack lines, ready to go without fumbling. There are electronic devices that allow crews to set a desired hose pressure. The suspension and water tank work in tandem to prevent dangerous weight shifts while the truck rushes around a turn. The tank itself holds more than the district’s existing engines, some 1,200 gallons, while the pumps are rated at 1,500 gallons a minute.

All of these modern touches are designed to shave critical seconds, or even minutes, off a fire crew’s response time. And as fire chief Bill Albus points out, the faster they can go into action the quicker they can tamp down a fire.

“It’s state of the art,” he added. “We’re very fortunate.”

The engine is a 2020 HME Ahrens-Fox, custom designed and built from scratch in Michigan to LDFPD specifications – an important factor, considering that the district’s main fire station on Agricultural Road in Mexico is too small for most commercially produced trucks. It replaces a dated 1999 model that lacked many of the electronic presets and time-saving features.

It comes at what might seem like a staggering cost – $465,000 – but the LDFPD and its board of directors had been saving for several years. They were able to make the purchase without asking for a grant or additional taxes.

The 2020 HME Ahrens-Fox joined LDFPD’s fleet of 15 vehicles two weeks ago. Albus and his team of 40 volunteer firefighters have been training on it since, focusing particularly on the updated electronics.
“We’re more used to a commercial chassis,” the chief said with a laugh.

Albus explains that despite the prevalence of smoke alarms in homes, synthetic fibers used in modern upholstery and carpeting tends to flare up quickly. The few minutes afforded by the custom-made engine gives fire crews more of a chance.

In addition to the engine, the district invested in 40 new medical bags. Fire crews respond to calls for injury and illness, sometimes arriving before the ambulance. Some of the district’s existing medical bags and equipment were 30 years old.

Also on the way are three new automatic defibrillators and some wildland gear, all using grant money.

“We want to get four-gas meters,” Albus added, referring to portable readers that detect potentially deadly gases. “They’re not cheap, either.”

The department averages 400 calls per year.

Part of this story was excerpted from The Ledger’s Saturday edition.

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