Although the Christmas season is over, White Salmon Fire Chief Bill Hunsaker announced that his department received a very special gift in early January: The Fire Department received a grant of $303,000 to pay for a new fire engine.
"It is exciting," Hunsaker said. "It's a wonderful thing. One of the goals before I retire was to put a new engine in bay. A goal was met."
Speaking at the Jan. 5 meeting of the White Salmon City Council, Hunsaker advised the council members that the $303,000 award requires only a five percent match from the city of White Salmon.
"The city has to come up with $15,500," said Hunsaker.
That money will come from Fire Department's reserve account.
Hunsaker said the new fire truck will feature a "custom-cab" that will seat eight firefighters in an enclosed safety cab.
"This is a gain for all of us, to get a new fire truck to replace one that is 30 years old," Hunsaker said.
"In a nutshell, we're going to replace old engine No. 9, which is an engine from 1981," explained WSFD Capt. Jess Wardwell. "It has served this community well, but it's old, antiquated, and needs to be removed from service due to many safety reasons. The plumbing in engine No. 9 was starting to rust, and we were seeing signs of decay when components would burst under normal operating pressures. We'll be able to work more efficiently and safely with the new engine without the worry that the plumbing will burst or the truck will break down."
The grant came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is a Homeland Security "assistance to firefighters grant."
The aging truck that will be replaced has been deemed unsafe, and once the new engine arrives, it will be retired. The old truck will either be sold or scrapped.
"It can't be in fire service any longer, but could be used privately," Hunsaker explained.
"Not only will this new engine benefit White Salmon, but it will also be an asset for Fire District No. 3, Bingen, and surrounding communities," added Wardwell.
Wardwell also pointed out that if the grant had not come through, the Fire Department was planning to place a bond measure to pay for a new truck before local voters. Now, that bond won't be necessary.
"In May of this year, we applied to FEMA for the grant funds. This is very fortunate, because we were going to go out for a bond this year if we hadn't received this grant," Wardwell explained. "The bond may not have passed and we'd have been sunk. With the current state of the economy and various factions already asking for tax increases, we may have been turned down. Now we'll have a terrific asset without such a financial burden to the taxpayers of White Salmon."
However, Wardwell noted that the Fire Department still needs more volunteers.
"Training and equipment are provided," he said. "If anyone has ever wanted to be a firefighter, or perhaps they are looking for a springboard into a professional fire service career, volunteering is a great place to start."
Hunsaker said he expected the new fire engine to be delivered sometime in the fall of this year.