CARLISLE TOWNSHIP — After 22 years in service, the Carlisle Township Fire Department is retiring the county’s largest water tanker — Tanker 2 — at the end of October.
Sitting around the fire department’s kitchen table, five firemen told the story of how the township acquired Tanker 2.
Retired Fire Chief Ray Hildebrandt, who served on the department for 46 years, was the engineer behind restoring the 1988 tank.
The purchase price of the tanker, which came from Charleston, W. Va., was $4,000, while the price of the tractor was $19,000. The tractor came from a truck dealer in Delta, Ohio.
“The tanker was used to transport oil, and we purchased it with the intent to store water,” Hildebrandt said.
The tanker has the capacity to hold 7,000 gallons of water.
During the summer of 1988, one of the hottest on record, firemen worked for only 20 minutes each day stripping away the oil residue left in the tank.
“It was so hot,” Hildebrandt said, shaking his head.
Lt. Randy Feakins, who has been with the department for 27 years, remembers that summer like it was yesterday.
“Cleaning it was a big job,” Feakins said.
When Hildebrandt bought the tanker in 1988, he thought it would be up to him and the firemen to rebuild.
Little did he know.
As it turned out, the Carlisle Township community stepped in to lend a hand in getting Tanker 2 ready for action.
Hildebrandt said Jay Cox was instrumental in readying the tanker with his donation of fender guides and chrome wheel inserts.
Richard Pownall, a plumber, donated 4-inch aluminum pipe and fittings.
“Another resident had access to a 4-inch power threader,” Hildebrandt said.
The same resident went to the fire station on a Sunday to cut the pipe and thread it.
And, a close friend of the fire department donated square steel tubing for making racks for the truck.
Fire Chief Kevin Dembiec said that in addition to restoring the tanker, firemen had to modify valves for water.
“It takes (roughly) 3 and a half minutes to empty it and its gravity drained,” Dembiec said.
Of the 7,000 gallons of water, 4,000 gallons are emptied into a portable pond that is attached to the tanker. The pumper truck then draws water out of the pond.
The tanker, which is always full, is either filled using hydrant water or static water, from a near-by pond. However, most of the time it has hydrant water because of the smell pond water tends to leave behind. Plus, hydrant water is cleaner and does not have mud or stones like pond water.
It takes seven minutes to fill the tanker.
And, when Tanker 2 is called out for mutual aid assistance, the drivers are always told the nearest location to fill up.
When the fighters were asked which fires they most remember, they all said the July 2008 fire at General Industries in Elyria. That fire has been reported as one of the biggest fires in Elyria’s history.
“We spent 22 hours on that fire,” Assistant Chief Wayne J. Simms said.
Simms, who has served on the fire department for 45 years, added that the fire at Freezer Queen on state Route 254 in Sheffield required Tanker 2 to fill up 17 times.
“When we respond for mutual aid, (local departments) give us an idea where to fill up,” Simms said.
Tanker 2 has also been called for mutual aid in the winter months when hydrants may freeze.
“Everyone knows about Tanker 2,” 40-year firefighter Ken Diedrick said.
Tanker 2 has been called to barn, house and commercial fires.
“Twenty percent of our jurisdiction has hydrants,” Dembiec said. “Depending on where you live, there may not be a hydrant.”
But fires are not the only reason Tanker 2 may be called into use.
“Recently, we were on stand-by because Vermilion had no reliable water,” Dembiec said, noting the lack of water was because a reservoir was being repaired.
The retiring of Tanker 2 will cause some hardship for the county when larger fires occur.
But for the Carlisle Township Fire Department, it will be a blessing of sorts.
As of right now, only Diedrick, Simms and Feakins are the main drivers of Tanker 2. Yet even on good-weather days, it is difficult to maneuver the massive tanker.
“If we are called out for mutual aid, we can’t go if we don’t have a driver for Tanker 2,” Hildebrandt said.
Keeping Tanker 2 up to code has also proven difficult in the past several years.
“Tanker 2 is old and falling apart and there are the safety factors. Right now, there is only one seat belt,” Dembiec said.
Simms also said that areas that lacked hydrants before now have them, which decreases the need for Tanker 2 to be called out for mutual aid.
The replacement tanker, which is being built, will hold 3,000 gallons of water. It will also allow for more firemen to operate it when a fire breaks out.
Dembiec said the fire department cannot resell the tanker as a “fire truck” because it does not meet safety standards.
But that doesn’t mean someone may not want the 7,000-gallon water tanker.
“It will be auctioned off, maybe on eBay,” Dembiec said.
Contact Melissa Linebrink at 329-7155 or email@example.com.