CHICAGO, Ill. -- An Alabama chief still struggles to find the words to describe what winning a new fire truck will mean to his community.
"Unbelievable, unreal -- I just can't think of all the adjectives I want to use," a jubilant Owens Cross Roads Fire Chief Dan Kelly said Monday.
Kelly said he and his firefighters are still awestruck that they were the winners of an E-ONE Tradition ES commercial pumper. The announcement was made Friday afternoon at FRI 2010 in Chicago.
The engine replaces a 1968 truck that recently failed a pump test, he explained.
The story about the rural department -- one of several hundred received by E-ONE --included a very personal tidbit along with the need for the replacement engine.
Members wrote about the dedication and devotion of a founding member, the late Robert Murray Maples, who spent a lot of his own money to keep their old engine in service for many years.
"I think we told a very touching, heart-felt story about our assistant chief of 51 years," Kelly said.
When the department was notified in April that it was one of the seven finalists, members were stunned. "I thought it was a joke at first," Kelly said. "I just couldn't believe it."
Knowing they were up against some really tough competition from other needy departments, Kelly said he brainstormed with members about how to get people to vote for them. Their efforts, that included contacting organizations across the country, paid off.
People voted for their favorite department online, and Kelly said his crew is grateful for those who chose their story.
"This is a once in a lifetime experience for our small department," he said. "We can't thank everyone enough."
While the engine was lettered as they watched, Kelly said he was so excited he didn't mention that they got the name of his department wrong. "They've promised to fix it, and add an 'S' to road," he said with a laugh. "I was just so blown away..."
Kelly said he still doesn't know when it will actually be rolling into their little town of 3,400.
E-ONE officials also haven't told them when the firefighters will get training on their new engine that comes with five-inch hose and tools.
Whenever the training is set, Kelly said he and his crew will be ready.
"The friendships I made with the folks from other departments was something else. We were close, and everybody was rooting for everybody. It was just incredible."
Late Monday afternoon, the chief still sounded like a child on Christmas morning. "I'd again just like to thank everybody involved twice or three times again. We still can't believe we're getting a new truck here."
E-ONE CEO Peter Guile said in a prepared statement, "We were again moved by the compelling nature of the stories and the immense need for equipment and apparatus in the fire service. We are very proud to be able to offer another deserving department a new fire truck and would like to thank all those who entered."
The other finalists included:
- Aubbeenaubbee Township Fire Department, Leiters Ford, Ind.
- Hines Volunteer Fire Department, Hines, Ore.
- Luther Volunteer Fire Department, Luther, Okla.
- Poverty Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Poverty Creek, NM
- Sedan City Fire Department, Sedan, Kan.
- Tri-County Volunteer Fire Department, Wetmore, Mich.
Those departments didn't walk away empty-handed. They received Bullard Helmets, Globe Bunker Gear and a TFT ProPak. One crew also got Havis Tripods and Hannay Reels.