SKOWHEGAN — The town’s new, bright red firetruck was too big to fit under the Christmas tree, so Fire Chief Shawn Howard did the next best thing: He gave Santa Claus a ride on it during the town’s holiday parade a few weeks ago.

“It came just in time for the Holiday Stroll,” Howard said of the annual holiday gala, which was held Dec. 5. “So that was pretty exciting. We put Santa on the firetruck. That was its maiden voyage. That was great. It was the first showing for the citizens to see their new firetruck.”

The truck, which cost about $465,000, was custom built by Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton, Wisconsin, based on the town’s own design developed over the past three years, Howard said. The new truck replaces a 1984 pumper, which had seen better days, the chief said.

“What we really wanted to look at was a truck that met more than just one need of the department, meaning it was a multi-faceted truck and it could do several jobs,” Howard said. “The biggest thing is being able to carry all of the necessary equipment, whether you’re fighting fire or performing a rescue, a technical rescue, extrication call. Any time these guys leave the station in that truck, they’re ready to go for just about anything.”

Howard said the custom truck design is important because equipment compartments are set up for easy access by firefighters en route to an emergency. He said equipment cannot just be stacked on top of other equipment, but needs designed space for maximum efficiency.

“It’s not like if you buy a Chevy from an assembly line,” he said. “For each truck they take the plans and custom build it for you. What we were impressed with is the craftsmanship we saw out there.”

Howard said he and Selectman Paul York, the board’s vice chairman, traveled to Wisconsin to see the truck being built to local specifications. The truck was paid for from the town’s capital reserve account, which is supplied with money raised each year by voters at the annual Town Meeting. He said the cost of firetrucks increases about 3 percent every year.

Howard said the design had to include easy access to tools and an even distribution of weight for proper stopping distance and acceleration.

The new truck — Engine 10 — is a rescue pumper with a maximum 1,500-gallon-per-minute pump and carries 1,000 gallons of water.

Most of the time, he said, the truck will pump about 200 gallons per minute to fight a fire.

The next truck coming to the Skowhegan Fire Department will be a quintuple combination pumper and tanker ladder truck. That truck, to be paid for in part with an $871,429 federal grant, will replace the town’s 1990 aerial ladder truck, which has been put up for sale.

Howard said he hopes that truck, which will cost about $1 million by the time it’s done, will be ready in time for the 2016 Skowhegan Holiday Stroll parade. That way he can give Santa another ride through downtown on a big red firetruck.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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