Franklin Fire District 4’s new $222,000 Rosenbauer pumper tender was something Chet Bauermeister would have been proud of.
The bright red fire truck was so shiny you could use it as a mirror and smell the fresh rubber from 20 feet away.
“It was his vision,” said fire district Commissioner Jim Klaustermeyer. “We were moving toward that when we lost him in that accident. We kind of viewed that as his legacy. He had us moving in the right direction.”
Bauermeister, 46, died in 2010 when the ATV he was riding flipped and rolled down a 100-foot slope while he was battling a fire in Adams County.
After that, fire district officials had to make many changes to comply with state Department of Labor & Industries findings.
They also realized they needed to upgrade the equipment and safety gear in the volunteer district.
“The reserves were just slowly eroding away,” Klaustermeyer said Thursday inside the Chet Bauermeister Training Room at the district’s main station in Basin City. “We kind of studied how far behind neighboring districts we are in taxable value.”
Fire District 4 first tried a levy lid lift with voters in 2012, but that failed. After reducing the request by 8 cents per $1,000 of property tax value, the request passed in 2013. The changed raised the levy rate to 62 cents per $1,000 of assessed value from 35 cents.
The district, which covers 180 square miles in northwestern Franklin County, has added five new firefighters to bring its total to 29, said Fire Chief Steve Cooper.
It also bought 10 sets of personal protective equipment, at a cost of $3,000 each. Some firefighters still have to wear hand-me-down helmets, gloves and boots.
But the new truck, which was paid for with a combination of money from the tax increase and reserves, was crucial.
Cooper said it will hold 3,000 gallons of water — compared with just 1,000 gallons on the 43-year-old truck it will replace — and it will be used to fight structure fires, as well as help with wildfires.
“This is going to be more of a dual-purpose truck,” Cooper said. “It’s tough when you get the residential fires out in the rural areas and there’s no access to a hydrant.”
The district now has three trucks to protect buildings, a water tender and six brush fire trucks divided among its three stations, Cooper said. It also plans to buy protective equipment for another 10 firefighters in the next year.
The new truck is important for residents of Basin City, an unincorporated community of about 1,000, Franklin County Commissioner Rick Miller said.
“A truck like this is probably one of the neatest things we’ve had in Basin City in quite a while,” said Miller, who was at the station when the Spokane General Fire dealership delivered the truck.