SULLIVAN — It has all the makings of a blue Christmas this year in the Sullivan Fire Protection District firehouse.
But unlike the sentiments shared in the popular holiday song, the feeling is quite jolly among Fire Chief Mike Piper and the firefighters there.
That's because the department was among this year's recipients of a state loan that made possible the purchase of a new 3,000-gallon tanker truck. And yes, it is blue, just like the rest of the fire truck fleet in the firehouse, affectionately referred to as “The House of Blues.”
The new truck, which arrived last week and has yet to go out on an emergency call, served as the backdrop for a news conference announcing the $9.3 million made available for the purchase of emergency vehicles across the state as part of the Fire Truck Revolving Loan and the Ambulance Revolving Loan programs. The no-interest loan programs are overseen by the Illinois State Fire Marshals Office and the Illinois Finance Authority.
Piper said the new truck will enhance the service the department provides to its sprawling rural district, much of which doesn't include access to fire hydrants.
“In our rural area, where there is no fire hydrants, no water supply when we show up, we have to have enough water to initially knock the fire down and get it a little under control until we get a tanker shuttle set up,” Piper said. “This is going to allow us to have 3,000 gallons more water initially at our rural structure fires when we show up."
Piper said because of the interest savings made possible through the loan, the department was able to equip the new truck with a pump that will provide immediate access to water and also enable it to be used to fight the fire if the situation warrants.
Sullivan, which received $278,335, was one of six regional departments that received loans through the fire truck program.
Other regional departments and the amounts they received are:
- Dora Township (Dalton City) Fire Protection District, $275,000;
- Latham Fire Protection District, $350,000;
- Lexington Community Fire Protection District, $350,000;
- Maroa Fire Protection District, $250,000;
- Octavia Fire Protection District, $285,000.
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“Fire departments throughout Illinois face financial stressors that can make it difficult to properly equip and train their firefighters,” State Fire Marshal Matt Perez said. “This new equipment will help them serve their communities in a safer, more efficient and effective way.”
The loan program makes available up to $350,000 for fire trucks and $200,000 for ambulances, repayable over 20 years and 10 years, respectively.
“This is huge for volunteer fire departments,” said Maroa Fire Chief Larry Peasley, noting this is the second time the department has taken advantage of the state program. This time around his department bought a new pumper truck, replacing a truck purchased in 1987.
“That's a lot of money,” said Bud Wilson, the Dora Township secretary/treasurer, referring to the $11,000 that will be saved in interest during the first year of the loan.
His department is replacing a pumper truck which, because of its condition, has since been made part of a display at the Children's Museum of Illinois in Decatur.
“We were able to afford a truck. It was that serious,” said Dan Hawk, a trustee with the Latham department.
He said the loan is being used to replace a 45-year-old pumper truck, which was “the first new truck ever” in Latham. If not for the loan, the department may have needed to delay the purchase or buy a used truck.
He said the interest savings over the course of the loan will be in excess of $160,000.
“So it's that significant,” he said, noting the savings can be put to better use purchasing needed equipment for their firefighters.
Central Illinois fire departments through the years
Contact Scott Perry at (217) 421-7976. Follow him on Twitter: @scottperry66