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The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Van Wert Fire Chief Jon Jones brought back an old firefighter tradition on Thursday as the city fire department conducted a pushing-in ceremony for its first new fire truck in a decade.

Van Wert firefighters and the city officials participate in pushing-in and wetdown ceremonies for the department's new Smeal fire engine on Thursday. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Van Wert firefighters and the city officials participate in pushing-in and wetdown ceremonies for the department’s new Smeal fire engine on Thursday. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

“This is something we don’t do every year, so we wanted to celebrate that a little bit and bring back the tradition of the pushing-in ceremony,” Chief Jones said. “When I became chief, I wanted to bring a lot of tradition back to the fire department, and I think some of our younger guys have lost that over the years.

“We’re just trying to bring back little things to have like a buy-in to the fire department, so that it’s more of that family atmosphere and they can pass it on, too, to other people down the road,” he added.

Chief Jones, who was sworn in back in February to replace retiring fire chief Jim Steele, noted that the ceremony goes back to the 1800s and early 1900s when fire engines were horse-drawn. After a fire, firefighters would unharness the horses and push the engines back into the firehouse to get them ready for service again.

“That’s what the pushing-in ceremony symbolizes,” the fire chief explained. “To push it into service for the first time.”

Firefighters and others participating first placed their hands on the vehicle while a prayer was said before pushing it into a fire bay.

Of course, with today’s multi-ton fire trucks, city firefighters and other city employees and city officials who helped push the department’s new multi-ton Engine 7 into the firehouse during the ceremony had some help from the truck’s engine to get the vehicle into the firehouse at the Van Wert Municipal Building.

The firefighters also performed a wetdown ceremony using water from the truck being replaced to symbolize the transition between vehicles.

The custom-built, stainless steel 2017 Smeal fire truck, the first new fire truck purchased since 2007, cost approximately $675,000, with another $100,000 in firefighting gear. The money comes from the city’s 0.22-percent Safety Capital Tax Fund.

“We try to buy good stuff that’s going to last and stay in service,” Chief Jones said, pointing to a 2001 Smeal engine that still looked nearly new after 16 years of service. “We try to get 20-25 years out of an engine, that’s our goal, and I think they’re all going to meet that goal.

“It’s a big investment,” he added, “but it’s spread over quite a bit of time.”

The truck it replaced, Engine 10, a 1989 Grummond that saw 28 years of service with the Van Wert Fire Department, will continue in service after being sold to the Willshire Fire Department for use in that village.

Chief Jones said the new truck, which is significantly larger than Engine 10, also has more firefighter safety features than the vehicle it replaces.

“The two things most firemen die from is heart attacks and car accidents,” the fire chief said, noting that the new truck has a built-in roll cage, lots of air bags, and seatbelts.

The new engine joins two other engines that provide tanker capability, as well as firefighting gear, and two aerial trucks on the firefighting side. Chief Jones said the new engine would likely be used more for residential fires within the city, but could also perform tanker duty for a large fire in a rural area that doesn’t have fire hydrants.

POSTED: 05/19/17 at 8:42 am. FILED UNDER: News