For Le Hendrick the “wetdown” of a new fire engine Tuesday evening was “like Christmas.”
Engine 52 is the first new fire engine built specifically for the city since 2001 and it replaces a 2000 fire engine, which will be decommissioned after new hoses and other equipment arrives for the newest model, Hendrick said. It will be between 30 to 45 days before the new engine is operational and the older model put up for sale.
“It’s an exciting day for Conway,” Hendrick said with a smile across his face.
More than a dozen firefighters mingled with about 20 community members during the traditional service where Hendrick sprayed the new engine with water before the firefighters gathered at the front of the truck and pushed it into a bay at Station No. 1 on Ninth Avenue.
Tuesday’s service dates back to when there were horse drawn fire engines and the horses needed to be “wetdown” after a call and the firefighters pushed the carriage back into the fire station, said Hendrick, who was named Conway’s fire chief in December after the retirement of Ricky Baker.
But that is likely the last time Engine 52 will be pushed around because it has state of the art safety features and can pump 2,000 gallons per minute at a fire, along with 750 gallons carried on board the truck, Hendrick said.
The engine joins seven other fire trucks operated in the city, which includes three other fire engines with a 2,000 gallon-per-minute flow, he said. The city has two used and one refurbished engine in its stock.
“From the front bumper to the rear bumper its custom designed for us,” Hendrick said of the Ferrara built Engine 52 from Holden, La., that cost $435,000.
The new fire engine doesn’t need a generator to operate its lights and it has other safety features like built in seat belt alarms and forward-facing rear cab.
“This truck can sustain on its own,” Hendrick said.
Jason Perzan, a Conway firefighter, brought his 5-year-old son, Connor, to see the dedication.
Wearing a plastic junior fire helmet, Connor Perzan said “it’s good” of the new engine.
Jason Perzan echoed his son’s sediments, “It’s a nice rig. It’s a blessing for us. We’re really grateful for the opportunities we’re given and it will help us provide better service for the citizens.”
Conway Mayor Alys Lawson said the new engine is part of a 10-year equipment replacement plan for the fire department and it should keep the fleet up-to-date.
“The fire department has been such a dedicated crew and now to add the needed equipment with the new facility is great,” Lawson said. “It’s really an exciting time in Conway.”
The plan is to set aside funding for large equipment needs and be ready for those one-time purchases, Lawson said.
“We want the best quality and to ensure the safety of the residents, their buildings and the lives of these dedicated firemen,” Lawson said.
Councilman Tom Anderson said he was excited for the new fire chief, equipment and planning for the future.
“It’s tough to buy a half-million or million dollar piece of equipment on a moment’s notice, now we’re planning for that,” Anderson said. “We’re working to keep our ISO [Insurance Service Office ratings for a community] ratings low and to help keep insurance rates down while providing reliable, safe and top technical equipment four our firefighters.”
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723 or on Twitter @tonyaroot.