Firefighters come home with new pumper

Perry Township firefighters came home Thursday afternoon with a new fire engine, complete with that new truck smell.

“I’m excited. It’s a huge relief knowing that we have two good engines in the township now,” Fire Chief Bruce Whitcher said.

The new KME Kovatch pumper offers foam capabilities, the ability to pump more water per minute, more safety features and lights, more room for equipment and an enclosed cab to keep firefighters safer while en route to a fire scene.

The 1977 pumper the new truck will replace pumped 1,000 gallons of water per minute when new and was down to 750 gallons per minute due to wear and tear. The new truck pumps 1,250 gallons of water per minute. The old pumper had an open cab and was not heated.

Whitcher said they’ll have more visibility on the scene due to the safety features and they can fit more firefighters, more equipment and more air tanks. The truck came with two pike poles and two ladders. They planned on spending much of the night transferring equipment, such as hoses, air tanks, axes and other tools, from the retiring Engine 72 to the new Engine 72, which will be housed at the south station off of Depot Road. The truck has a new radio.

Whitcher and company traveled to inspect the truck Wednesday at the KME Kovatch headquarters in Nesquehoning, Pa. where it was custom built. Only a few minor fixes had to be made, then they drove 4 1/2 hours on Thursday to bring the truck home. The truck has 430 miles on it and he described the ride as quiet and smooth.

“Everything on this rig is brand new so we’re not looking at any problems,” the chief said, adding anything that does come up will be covered under warranty.

He said they plan to get the new truck ready for service as soon as possible.

“We’re very appreciative to the trustees for making this all possible. We couldn’t have done this without them. We thank the residents for their support,” Whitcher said.

The truck cost $336,908 and has already been paid for with levy money. Trustee Chairman Cliff Mix said the new truck is “Perry Township residents’ money at work.” He also complimented KME Kovatch, the company which spent months building the truck to the fire department’s specifications.

Trustee Don Rudibaugh, who works closely with the fire department, said Firefighter Kevin Bryan and Whitcher did a lot of work on the truck.

“They’re to be commended for it,” he said.

The rest of the department’s fleet includes a 2004 pumper truck, a 1999 tanker, a 1995 grass truck and a 1994 rescue truck. Residents will have a chance to see the new truck and learn more about the department during a pancake breakfast/open house from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 27 at the north station on North Ellsworth Avenue.

Plans call for live demonstrations of equipment and for Lifeflight and ambulances to also be on hand. The cost of tickets for breakfast will be $6 for adults, $4.50 for children ages 6 to 13 and children 5 and under free.

Whitcher said the department is trying to raise money to purchase equipment needed for a first responder program so firefighters can offer basic life-saving medical assistance in addition to what they already offer residents.

“We want them to know that we’re here for them,” he said.

The department offers a free smoke detector program, with installation free by firefighters. Residents can call the fire department at 330-332-4676 and leave a message if they need a smoke detector.

According to the report of 2012 Perry Township Fire Calls, the number of calls was down last year to 87, compared with 130 calls in 2011 and 91 calls in 2010. Whitcher said “sometimes we get hammered and sometimes we don’t.”

The department had one less structure fire last year than the previous year, with two reported in 2012. Many numbers decreased, but they still responded to a variety of calls, whether fires, motor vehicle accidents, lift assists, mutual aid, poles down, trees on wires or carbon monoxide alarms. Carbon monoxide calls and grass fire calls were both increased last year, with 10 CO alarms and five grass fires.

Other numbers reported included: 11 motor vehicle accidents with injuries; five mva with no injuries; two mva with entrapment; one mva traffic control; four mutual aid for structure fires; two poles down; two lines arcing; seven investigations; nine lift assists; one water alarm; 10 burning complaints; one home lockout; one transformer fire; three ambulance assists; two trees on wires; one tree on fire; one smoke alarm; one electrical problem; one HAZMAT spill; one generator request; and four other mutual aid requests.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at