2 of county's surplus fire trucks will help Panhandle volunteers

By R. Michael Anderson
Clay County Line staff writer
Christmas was made a little brighter for a small Panhandle county and a lot safer for its residents -- thanks to the generosity of the Clay County Public Safety Department.

Two surplus fire trucks were donated by the County Commission to volunteer fire units in Calhoun County, one of the smallest and poorest counties in Florida, located in the northwest corner of the state about an hour from Mississippi.

The vehicles -- a 1982 GMC fire engine with a 1,000-gallon-per-minute pump and a 1984 1,250-gallon tanker -- pulled out of the public safety department parking lot in Green Cove Springs Monday en route to their destination about six hours away.

"These two used Clay County fire engines will be brightening up Christmas for Calhoun County," said Fire and Rescue Lt. Bernita Bush. "They were donated to two deserving volunteer fire companies to augment existing apparatuses at those stations."

Calhoun County's Mossy Pond Volunteer Fire Department got the engine as a Christmas present and its Westside Volunteer Fire Department received the tanker.

"Oftentimes, the apparatus utilized by volunteer fire companies, especially in rural areas," Bush said, "is older equipment which has been sold or handed down to the volunteer services by other departments as they replace trucks.

"Sometimes the equipment functions well and provides many years of faithful service," she said. "But sometimes, as equipment ages, it doesn't work as well as it used to and requires upkeep and maintenance. Most volunteer departments struggle to keep apparatus on the road with a shoestring budget to protect the communities they serve."

Chief Rolf Myrhammar of the Mossy Pond Volunteer Fire Department said the donated trucks replaced a 1965 model that was pretty much worn out.

"We're certainly grateful for the donation of these two trucks," he said, as the vehicles rolled out of the parking lot and began their cross-state journey toward their new home.

In addition to the trucks, Clay County Fire and Rescue also donated surplus protective firefighting clothing and helmets to the two agencies to upgrade gear currently being used there. Calhoun County's firefighters will use the gear to protect them when they enter structures and woodlands to combat fires.

Staff writer R. Michael Anderson can be reached at (904) 278-9487, extension 11, or via e-mail at mike.andersonjacksonville.com.