Merriam-Webster defines community as, “the people living in a certain place (as a village or city) the area itself. Google Dictionary defines community as, “1. A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. 2. A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”
All three definitions would define the community of Hubert.
Recent decisions by the Onslow County Government to dissolve local rescue squads and combine their services into existing fire companies left many in the area concerned due to the closure of Swansboro Rescue, which has served the area well for more than 30 years. Local residents have already noticed apparent increases in response times.
Services at the Bear Creek Fire station were increased after the decision to close Swansboro Rescue, and Bear Creek became a County Fire House. Some of the crew from Swansboro Rescue did move over to Bear Creek Fire. Response distances increased, and to many a need was evident to beef up services to make up for the loss of the rescue squad.
The people and volunteers for the past three years had been raising monies on their own through everything from bake sales to boot drives, car washes and more to replace at no expense to the county the fire department’s oldest fire engine, a Grumman nearing the end of its North Carolina regulated life span of 30 years as a pumper.
At a recent community and fire meeting the needs for the replacement truck were discussed. It would need to have scene lighting for night incidents. It would need to have a minimum of 500 feet of 2.5-inch hose and 300 feet of 1.5-inch hose. It would need to be able to spray foam. It would need a 2,000 gpm pump. It would need a lot of things … but the community budget wasn’t there to cover such an expensive truck with so many features. With the community deciding that it wanted that service truck to have onboard extrication equipment also … it seemed impossible.
The community had the funds to purchase a truck, but it was clear there would have to be a compromise. It looked like the truck would have fewer features than the truck retiring, and definitely less equipment than on the wish list, due to the constraints of budget.
However, in a West Virginia town there was a fire department with a similar problem. They had a truck dedicated in memory of one of their past chiefs, that exceeded their needs, and they had a goal of obtaining a somewhat more conservative unit.
After a brief negotiation, and an agreement to maintain the dedication plaque in memory of that fire chief on the truck, a price was reached well within the community budget. This allowed for the truck to be purchased without using any tax dollars, county funds, or designated state funds. The truck was purchased entirely with the donations of the citizens of Hubert.
What the community of Hubert gained was a Peirce Lance Rescue equipped with full extraction capable tools, a 6,000-watt, 26-foot light tower and external lights, and a 25,000 kw generator! The Pierce Lance Rescue though being originally built in 1997 is allowed a longer lifespan due to its classification. The truck was well maintained.
However the truck also exceeds the goals set by the community. It features an eight-person cab allowing for a stronger response when available. The truck has a 2000-gpm pump, with a 400 gallon water holding tank, and a 50 gallon foam tank. The truck is also equipped with a 12,000-pound winch up front, and carries over 1,500 feet of 5-inch hose. The truck even has an air unit capable of refilling air packs with breathable air. This is a real asset on extended fire scenes.
Citizens were stunned by the size and the capacity of the truck at the Community Day Open House Saturday, Aug. 16, as the truck was for the first time displayed to the public. During the event, many people congregated by the driver side of the cab of the fire truck. They were looking and pointing at a window just behind the driver’s door. “This truck made possible by the citizens of Hubert, NC.”
A small boy looked up at his father and asked, “What does that mean?” His father replied, “We bought that truck, all of us, and it belongs to this community.” The little boy smiled, touched the huge fire engine and replied, “Mine! I never owned a fire truck this big before.”
Hubert Fire Chief Joseph Williams said the truck is a result of a community’s commitment.
“This is the people of Hubert’s fire truck,” he said. “They made this possible. They did the hard work and gave the effort to make this happen. This truck will serve our community well.”
The truck will soon be in service at the Hubert Fire department after supplemental equipment including air bags for lifting, and additional tools are added. But as for the truck being retired from service, it will not be going to waste. The truck is being donated to a fire department in South Carolina, which is currently still in the process of rebuilding after Hurricane Florence, where it will be able to continue to serve.
John M. Moore lives in Hubert.