Chatfield Fire Department merges two former trucks into nearly new tanker

The Chatfield Fire Department's upgraded tanker truck will serve the city and townships for the next 20 years or so. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
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Chatfield’s firefighters are playing LEGOs and stickers with the fire truck.

“Our 1998 tanker needed some repair, but we’re saving some money because we took the tank off the 1998 truck and bought a used fire engine from the department in Toledo, Ohio, and took that engine and took the pump and stuff off from that, and we put the tanker on here,” stated Chatfield Fire Chief Ryan Priebe.

He explained how the department connected the rear of its 1998 tanker truck with the front end of a newer, used truck to create a nearly-new tanker truck that will serve the community for years to come.

He elaborated, “They did the front half at Wit Boyz — the front is new, and they took the old back from our tanker and put them together. The reason for doing that was that this is a diesel, and the other truck was gas, and this is an automatic. The last truck was manual, and it’s getting harder to find people who can drive a manual transmission, and with diesel, we now have the power to go up the hills out of here.”

Priebe explained that the tanker doesn’t do much other than hauling water to rural fires, and the tank inside is a poly tank, so it will last forever.

“We kept the original pump from our tanker, too. It has all new lights — LEDs — and the tires are pretty much brand new, and it has a new transmission,” he said. “We also put chains underneath so that we can haul water out in winter when we need chains on the tires.”

Priebe acknowledged that the interior of the cab has some wear, but he pointed out there’s room for more firefighters to respond to a call.

“You can tell that it’s not a new truck, but we put two new seats in so that it’s a crew cab and we can haul more people and more gear,” he said.

Cost also determined the decision to overhaul the department’s existing tanker, as replacing fire trucks is a rather expensive proposal. “We have $78,000 into this one, and we saved ourselves a lot of money, because a new tanker would cost about $250,000 to $300,000. Otherwise, I don’t know what we’d be doing if we had to buy a new one,” he said.

Perhaps the most interesting part about the department having Wit Boyz put two pieces of separate trucks together into one was that once work was finished, there was the matter of repainting the resulting LEGO creation. That’s when the department turned to using what is essentially a giant sticker shrink-wrapped all around the truck.

“We thought about having it painted, but that would have cost about $20,000, and we had a hard time matching the reds in the paint. So we went to Kelly Signs in Preston and checked out what it would cost to have a vinyl wrap put on the truck, and that was about $3,000 to $4,000 compared to the $20,000 it would have taken to repaint it,” Priebe said.  That’s what took the longest — waiting for the vinyl wrap to be finished. Other than that, it took about six weeks for Wit Boyz in town to work on it.”

Priebe concluded that the tanker will serve the Chatfield community for more than 20 years, long after he’s retired from the fire department.

“This one should last us 20 years, and it could last longer. It’s kind of fun to get to use another fire department’s fire truck, for us to get a retired truck and put it to work again,” he said.