Ocala, FL (October 28, 2011) – After a devastating F4 tornado ripped through the city of Cullman, Ala., in April, the fire department spent many sleepless days picking up the pieces of their broken community before contemplating how they could help their city be better prepared for the next disaster.
“We had just been approved for a grant to purchase a new aerial and were working out the details on the truck when the tornado hit on April 27th,” Cullman City Council president Garlan Gudger said. “The tornado touched down on one city line and proceeded 38 linear miles to the next city line, destroying a thousand homes, 96 businesses, several churches and historic downtown along its path. The fire department played an integral role in the hours, days and weeks after it hit.”
Eleven days later the town was restored to full power, during which time the fire department along with the National Guard gave out water and much-needed assistance to the citizens of Cullman.
“FEMA, the National Guard, everyone who came to our aid was shocked at how much we had already done by pulling together after the storm – we could not have pulled through without the help of our fire department,” Cullman City Council member Johnny Cook said.
Along with pulling the community together, the devastating storm made the mayor and city council members realize the importance of supporting their fire department.
“Our community had never been through anything like that storm, we didn’t know what we needed until we needed it,” Gudger said. “So when it came time to order the truck, we told the chief to make sure the truck was fully equipped with everything the department needed.”
For Chief Junior Reinhardt, the manufacturer of his community’s new aerial was an easy decision.
“Several years ago we had a custom E-ONE unit involved in an accident, it was a situation where the truck rolled over and everyone in the cab walked away with only a few cuts and bruises,” Chief Reinhardt said. “So we knew we wanted the safety of the roll cage cab design only offered on E-ONE custom cabs.”
The emergency situation brought on by the devastating storm resulted in a few changes to their original aerial platform design.
“The power outages made us realize the importance of scene lighting so we added more lights to the truck along with lifting eyes at the tip of the base section that will allow us to lift up to 4000 pounds and we also added more rescue equipment,” Chief Reinhardt said.
While Chief Reinhardt and his fire fighters will be responsible for the new platform, he wants everyone to know and understand that this is the community’s new fire truck.
“The community has given so much back to the department throughout all of this, cooking for us and dropping food by the station, we want this truck to be a part of the community, it’s their truck,” Chief Reinhardt said.
And to help make the community feel like they had a hand in designing their new fire truck, the department held a contest to let local elementary, middle and high school students design the graphics.
“Billy Atchison, the local sales representative for Sunbelt Fire Apparatus, and Chief Reinhardt came up with the idea. Billy printed off copies of the CAD drawing and dropped them off with the elementary school principals,” Cook said. “We had over 100 entries and Chief Reinhardt narrowed it down to three winners, each from a local elementary school, he then combined elements of all three designs to develop the final graphics package.”