When push came to shove, the Niceville Fire Department wouldn’t let a little weather stand in the way of a century-old tradition.
Despite a steady rain, department members celebrated the arrival of their newest fire truck with a traditional “push-in” ceremony Tuesday morning as dignitaries, residents, and excited youngsters cheered them on.
“This tradition dates back to the early 1900s before there were motorized fire vehicles,” Chief Tommy Mayville explained. “At that time, the fire wagons were drawn by horses. After the fire, they would unhitch the horses and push the wagon back into the station. It became a tradition that remained even after the firetrucks were motorized. To this day, we still do what they did back at the turn of the century.”
Mayville’s face was beaming as he introduced Engine 21 to the onlookers.
“We took a dream and made it a reality,” he said, thanking the city council and the firetruck committee for their efforts to create a truly customized vehicle for the department.
“This is a long-awaited day,” Mayville added. “It took two years from the time it was approved to get it built, but it has everything we could have wanted on the truck. It’s going to meet the needs of the community for years to come.”
Built in Ohio, the new truck features state-of-the-art equipment to help the department respond to fire and rescue emergencies. Once paramedics are hired, the engine’s crew could provide advanced life support at the scene of accidents and other emergencies.
After addressing the visitors, Mayville invited his firefighters to give Engine 21 its official welcome to the NFD.
“We’re all excited,” Mayville said. “We’re going to do this real quick because it’s raining outside.”
On his cue, a firefighters scrambled outside to push Engine 21 into its place of honor inside the fire station. From above, a voice on a loudspeaker announced, “Engine 21 officially in service.”
Afterward, several folks – from city council members to kids dressed in firefighting costumes – took turns climbing aboard the vehicle.
“It’s very exciting after so many years of waiting for this to become a reality,” said City Council Member Cathy Alley. “It’s going to enhance the services we can offer the community.”
For Niceville High School senior Brandon Long, the push-in ceremony was an opportunity to get an up-close look at the fire department and its latest equipment. Long, who is considering a career in firefighting after college, has a great sense of gratitude for the city’s public safety workers.
“They’re so involved in our community, from the Friday night games to the Christmas parade and everything else,” he said. “We have great public safety departments. They’re like one big family. That’s one of the things that drove me to be interested in the Niceville Fire Department.”
As the crowd gathered around to admire the new truck, Assistant Chief Matt Webster looked on with a smile.
“We couldn’t be happier with this truck,” he said. “It’s gonna put out a lot of fires.”
LENGTH: 32 feet, 10 inches
WEIGHT: 43,000 pounds
WATER PUMPING CAPACITY: 2,000 GALLONS PER MINUTE
ONBOARD WATER CAPACITY: 750 GALLONS
OVERALL COST: $629,000