Bayshore Fire District staff refurbishes truck
The Bayshore Fire and Rescue District will now be using a not new, but fully refurbished brush truck, which enables the district to fight more fires, while keeping overhead costs low enough to maintain staffing levels in an economy where many districts have faced layoffs.
“We received a military 6 x 6 truck from the Florida Division of Forestry which we converted into a brush truck,” said Chief Larry Nisbet. “What we did was to convert it into a truck used to respond to wild land fires and protect homes threatened by those type of fires.”
A new, direct-off-the-line similar truck would cost a fire department in the neighborhood of $150,000, he noted. “This cost $15,000.”
It took a lot of work to remodel the truck. “It took about four and one half months to convert it, and every staff member in this department had something to do with it — along with our volunteers.”
They had to cut the old bed, extend bumpers and add “rub rails” so the truck wouldn’t be damaged by trees. They also welded a cage are so firefighters could fight blazes by there.
“That’s when they can be secured behind a driver and fight fires from that location,” Nisbet continued.
It wasn’t that simple to fully convert the vehicle, but again, cost savings were planned.
They had to purchase what is called a “pump skid unit” — with apparatus that includes an actual hose.
“A pre-manufactured unit costs over $11,500, but we only had to pay one half of that — we got a grant from the National Wild-Land Protection Group for the rest.”
There were other major and minor refinements, but in the end, the truck will save jobs.
“We lost 37 percent of our operating budget this year, with the decrease in property values and ad valorem taxes,” the chief said.
As a new chief taking over in only the last few years he wasn’t only faced with a budget deficit, he was also faced with a fleet of trucks that desperately needed maintenance.
Staff was more than willing to pitch in. “Each shift took their own role in building the truck. Our shift — the B Shift — was in charge of fabrication,” said Engineer Lewie Swindle. “The A Shift was in charge of plumbing, and the C Shift paint and bodywork.”
“I’m personally proud of everyone who pitched in and helped out,” said Cpt. Jeremy Brunson. “It will allow us to serve the community better, and it saved a lot of money.”
The other big plus is the type of build this particular truck offers. “It has an auto transmission and a diesel engine. What that does is enable me to train firefighters on a newer model versus a standard transmission. And with this type of reliability, response time will be grater.”
With less rain, fire hazards are great right now in the area, he noted. “We have had less rain and we’ve been handling more fires than we usually do this time of year. Our area is what we would call an urban-interface community noted. We have homes that are built directly into wild land areas. This truck will better serve our particular North Fort Myers community. We have to protect those homes from those wild land events.”
Bayshore Fire personnel report a year-end spirit of giving as well. The district hosted its annual holiday dinner recently and served nearly 100 individuals, supporting several dozen families for the holidays.
It is all about pride in service, said the chief. The motto “Serving With Pride” is prominent on the truck’s water tank. “That’s the bottom line.”