by Geoff Fox
Hancock Fire Company will soon be getting a new tanker to add to their fleet with a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is a Rural Development Community Facility Grant.
The funds are a matching grant, which means 75% come from the USDA and 25% from Hancock Fire Company up to a maximum of $500,000. Hancock’s matching portion is $167,000, said Hancock Assistant Chief Ben Breeze.
Breeze said the department is still figuring out how much a new tanker would cost, however new tankers recently purchased in Washington County were around $550,000 and $575,000.
That style tanker is what the fire company has now where the cab over wheel design without the extra personnel seating.
The body would typically be in the $350,000 range, Breeze said. The cab and chassis alone for a similar tanker sit in the $450,000 to $550,000 range.
Those higher costs are due to COVID and materials issues, “it’s jacked the prices up,” he added.
“In talking to truck manufacturers, can not even take acceptance of a chassis for over a year because they are that far booked up and behind,” Breeze said.
All costs do include graphics, Breeze added.
The new tanker, which has to be ordered by this summer, would replace Engine Tanker 53 in the Hancock Fire Company’s fleet of apparatus.
Right now, Breeze said Company 5 is still figuring out what they want in terms of the new tanker. This could take a couple months. Then it goes out to bid.
“One thing we have to consider is that custom chassis or a cheaper commercial chassis like a Kenworth,” Breeze said.
A majority of fire apparatus in the area is on commercial chassis, he added.
Once the new tanker is ordered and arrives in Hancock, Engine Tanker 53 will be taken out of service and Tanker 5 will take its place.
When Engine Tanker 53 was originally purchased, there were more volunteers who would run calls and they needed more seating.
“We would fill an engine and the engine tanker,” Breeze said. “Those days are gone.”
With Engine Tanker 53 holding 2,200 gallons of water, Hancock Fire Company is looking to increase their capabilities and get a 3,000 tank.
President of Hancock Fire Company Rick Rowe said the amount of water the tanker can carry would be an advantage.
“For the rural areas it’s really going to pay off,” he said.
Even with a larger capacity for water, Breeze said the new tanker would be the same size as the current engine tanker.
“So we want to increase our capabilities without increasing our footprint going down the road, especially low bridges, farm lanes, stuff like that,” Breeze said.
He added the company would be getting “more bang for our buck” every time the truck responds to a call.
The new tanker will also have some technological updates compared to Engine Tanker 53, which was built in 2005. A useful life is 20 years.
Maintenance costs will also help out with the new tanker.
On the rear of Engine Tanker 53, there are two panels where firefighters can hook up tanks.
Breeze said the boxes have had to be rebuilt due to the brine solution and salt on roadways coming up from the wheel wells and rotted and rusting the boxes.
“There’s been a lot of maintenance done to try to rebuild that and patch it to carry us along until we had monies available we could afford it,” Breeze said. “Without this grant we wouldn’t have been able to afford it.”
Rowe said they applied for the grant last fall.
Breeze said only a handful of counties in Maryland (Washington, Frederick, Baltimore, and Howard counties) and certain Delaware counties were eligible to apply for the grant as part of a disaster relief package from a 2018 storm.
Both pointed to a member of the Ladies Auxiliary who was instrumental in applying and getting the grant.
That person is Debbie Cohill. Breeze noted she’s been a “tremendous help” as a grant writer.
Rowe added Cohill has been “quite a few” grants lately still working on a few others.
“With the track record she’s had, we stand a very good chance of getting those,” Rowe said.
Breeze taken grant-writing courses himself and said his hat is off to her in what she’s done.
“I know just verbiage in the way you write your explanations in the grant can make it a positive or a negative for you,” he said.
In a typical year, Hancock Fire Company puts in for five or six grants. This past year, Breeze said they’ve put in for more than that.
As soon as the money became available, Breeze said the fire company started looking into prices so they could get the grant in to the proper hands.
The grant was submitted with a week of being made available, but there was a delay in budget funding due to some federal back and forth.
“We were sitting there for months waiting for it to be allocated and it was just, the money was re-allocated by the feds a couple weeks ago,” Breeze said.
A week after the re-allocation, Hancock was notified they were approved for their grant.
Once the new truck arrives in Hancock, Breeze said they would try to sell Engine Tanker 53, but it’s hard to gauge the market.
From the time Hancock Fire Company signs the contract, it could be 2023 or 2024 before they get the new tanker.
Given the timeframe, it’s hard to determine the value of the current piece of apparatus.
A similar piece of apparatus sold for over $200,000, which surprised Breeze as he watches the used market.
“There is still a market,” he said, noting there are more rural areas than Hancock who could use a 20-year old piece of apparatus or it could even go out of country.