West Friendship volunteer fire company gets its new engine

June 02, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

It took nearly 50 years, but the West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department can finally come in from the cold -- and the heat.

After a decade of raising money, the department is now the proud owner of E-31, a new heated and air-conditioned fire engine that cost $265,000 -- all from donations.

"It rides like a Cadillac," said Debbie Saunders, acting Emergency Medical Services lieutenant. "I guess it has good shocks."

"So far, we're extremely pleased with it," said Chief Gary W. Unverzagt of the engine, which was put into service in April. "It's one of the few pieces of equipment we've had really good luck with so far."

The mobile base of Engine Co. 31 is also a bit more hospitable than its 1982 vintage predecessor, said Ms. Saunders, who divides her time between riding in the department's medic unit and the new vehicle.

"The older one didn't have an enclosed cab," she said. Sitting in one of four contoured seats just behind the driver's seat, she pointed at the roof. "This would be all open, so you were exposed to the snow, the wind and other weather."

"This will be nice in the winter," she said.

The chief said the air-conditioned truck will also be a boon to overheated firefighters during the summer months: "For hot weather, when the guys come out of a working fire, it gives them a place to sort of rehab themselves."

Even without the fire, notes Ms. Saunders, "it gets pretty hot in full

turnout gear."

Before the weather gets any warmer, the chief said he is looking forward to fixing the air conditioner, which has presented the only problem so far.

The purchase of the truck was a major accomplishment for a company that was started with a $100 1928 Buick and a hat-passing that netted $17.40.

Back then, the former "Maryland Minute Men," as earlier firefighters were called, were called to the station by Mildred Molesworth, the fire chief's wife. When a fire call came in, she pulled a string attached to the clapper on the fire bell and started calling volunteers on the telephone.

The fire company is preparing a banquet in honor of its 50th birthday in November.

The new vehicle carries 1,000 gallons of water -- a must in hydrant-less areas of West County -- and 35 gallons of a chemical that can produce between 1,500 and 2,000 gallons of foam for fires from fuel or other combustable liquids. Money to buy the engine was raised over the years by the department's membership, which now numbers about 60.

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