Austintown Fire Station 1 is now home to a different type of fire fighting vehicle. The department now has a 1992 military Humvee converted to fighting brush fires and making trail rescues.
Fire Chief Andy Frost said prior to the Humvee, the department had two Jeeps, a 1964 and a 1966. The Jeeps each carried two firemen and a limited supply of water along with brush fire tools. Frost said it was time to replace the two with a better-equipped vehicle, as the department was towing the Jeeps roughly three times per year from breakdowns. Also, parts for the vintage Jeeps were getting harder to come by.
''We had a huge need, and instead of spending a lot of money [to replace the Jeeps], there was a better option,'' he said.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Ready to roll on brush fires in the township are Austintown fire fighters John Fritz, Shawn Conroy, Brandon Wirtz and Capt. Dan Martin. The new Humvee vehicle was obtained from military surplus and was converted to carry 100 gallons of water off road.
The option was in military surplus. The military has Humvees from the early 1990s that are still sound vehicles. Thanks to a cooperative effort with Austintown Police, one of the vehicles was obtained.
''The truck was secured for us by the Austintown Police Department,'' Frost said. ''A special thanks goes out to Police Chief Bob Gavalier and Detective Sgt. Shawn Hevener, who did all the paperwork and were responsible for attaining the vehicle.''
Frost said the Humvee is a 1992, which means it is too old for military use, but is perfectly good for the fire service. In spite of the age of the vehicle, it only has 20,000 original miles on it. He expects to get at least 20 years out of it.
The nice thing about the vehicle is that through the government application that Gavalier and Hevener filled out, it was totally free to the fire department. It was delivered as a military, camouflaged vehicle and needed some improvements to convert it to the fire service.
''The Humvee became a community project with Austintown businesses and families assisting in getting it to where it is today,'' Frost said. ''Several companies and individuals either did the work for free or charged us only for materials.''
Among local companies donating to the cause was Superior Auto Body, owned by the Latone family of Austintown, who painted the truck with proper fire-rescue colors. Cyclone Seat Covers, owned by the Klacik family of Austintown, built the interior and dyed the existing canvass top. Molnar Concessions, owned by the Molnar family of Austintown, fabricated the 100-gallon water tank and other aluminum accessories.
Adding to the donations from those local business families are the Austintown fire fighters themselves. Some work was done during normal shifts, but many volunteered their time on their days off to get the Humvee road and trail ready.
''It has become a labor of love for all of us,'' Frost said.
In total, the Humvee has approximately $9,000 into it. It is a far cry from the $90,000 to $120,000 needed to purchase a new vehicle to replace the Jeeps.
''We are fortunate that the military chooses to help local governments by allowing them to receive their surplus,'' Frost said.
The Humvee has a powerful diesel motor in it and it is set up to go off road, handling most ground clearance problems as well as climbing into rough areas to maneuver.
It will carry four firefighters and is capable of transporting a person on a backboard safely out of wooded areas and brush. Frost said it will be a key vehicle in trail rescues that normal fire vehicles can't even imagine responding to.
''It also has a complete LED package, including response lights and flood lights that can turn night into day. All the lights are the latest technology,'' he said.
The new 92 Humvee was completed earlier this month and is now ready for service. Frost said his department normally responds to 15 to 20 off-road brush fires and trail rescues.
As for the old Jeeps, Frost said it is being considered whether or not to keep one for historical sake. Both will be decommissioned in the near future.