Tenn. fire dept. fights to replace 35-year-old tanker

Truck often does not start, cannot respond to fire calls; deputy chief estimated it would cost $190,000 to replace

By Chris Cannon
News Channel 5

PARSON, Tenn. — Inside Decatur County Fire Department station one you will find a tanker truck that has been in service there for 35 years. Firefighters claim that truck is putting lives on the line every time it is used.

"This is the largest tanker in the county. This holds the most amount of water. Most tankers that come out now are 1000 gallon tankers," according to deputy fire chief Paul Love.

The truck is actually a retrofitted car carrier. Firefighters attached an agriculture tanker to the back of it and have been working with it for nearly four decades. But the truck is showing its age.

"All the hose work and everything on it, of course, is 35 years old," Love said.

The truck often does not start and cannot respond to fire calls when it is needed. That was the case in early April.

"April 4th this truck did not start. I physically was the one and tried to start it. It did not roll," Love explained.

That was the day of a fatal fire at Oak Hill Cafe Bar and Grill in Parsons. Veteran firefighter Kenny Fox was killed that day when the ceiling of the cafe collapsed on top of him.

"I know shortly after that water became an issue on supporting the teams that were going in to try and find him," Love explained.

Love does not know if the tanker truck was able to respond that day if things would have turned out differently. But he does know something has to be done about the outdated piece of equipment.

"When the fire departments are in trouble, who do we call? There is no one for us to call," Love said.

He has sent hundreds of emails to federal, state and county agencies trying to find a way to raise the money needed to purchase a different tanker truck.

"I've had a couple say of people that actually said yes, they're trying to help. But of course, nobody has a budget, nobody can help," Love claimed.

The fire department has regular fund raisers, but that money is needed to pay for repairs and fuel for the trucks. There is not enough money in the county budget to cover those basic needs.

"We're not the only ones suffering. The entire state's volunteer departments are dying a slow death," according to Love.

The deputy chief estimated it would cost $190,000 to replace the outdated tanker truck.

Republished with permission from News Channel 5

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