Noteworthy

Small fire department wins big, brand-new truck

Posted May 7, 2009 11:16 a.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2009 1:55 p.m. EDT

— The Powellsville Volunteer Fire Department – a 34-strong force that serves one of North Carolina's poorest counties – got a big gift: a brand-new fire truck valued at more than $170,000.

Fire Chief David Powell and other firefighters were at manufacturer E-ONE's Indianapolis headquarters when the company announced which of seven finalists in the "Tell Us Your Story" essay contest had garnered the most online votes April 24.

“Winning this truck is a big relief for the guys in our department. A huge financial burden has been lifted off our shoulders," Powell said.

The new E-ONE Tradition ES pumper will replace a 1972 Howe pump truck, which has leaking hydraulic brakes and steel tanks. Powell said he can now focusing on buying safety equipment "that our department cannot be without," such as an extrication tool.

Even being selected as a finalist came as a surprise to the 52-year-old department, which had been turned down three straight years for federal grants to buy a new truck. The chief's wife, Cheryl, wrote an essay after finding an entry form her husband had thrown away. Then she got a call saying the department was one of seven finalists selected from more than 650 entries.

Powellsville firefighters "took this opportunity by storm," said Trey Daughtridge, with Fire Connections Inc., an  E-ONE dealer in Rocky Mount.

They met a couple times a week to plan a vote-getting campaign, including a video on YouTube. Sales staff at Fire Connections started an email campaign in support of their local finalist, and the state firefighters and veterinarians associations, big-box stores and numerous local businesses also pitched in. The effort even caught the attention of WRAL.com, which reported on the campaign on April 4.

In the end, the Powellsville Volunteer Fire Department won with 7,000 out of 16,000 votes.

Other fire departments in North Carolina, Indiana and Wisconsin also donated equipment for Powellsville's new truck, including hoses, nozzles and air packs. The second and third runners-up got Havis Shield tripod scene lights, and TFT(R) donated air packs to all six finalists.

Powell said he hopes the contest raises the awareness of the many needs of fire departments – including the six finalists he was up against.

His department survives on donations and fundraisers, including a barbecue that sold 5,300 pounds of pork in March. Bertie County gives the department $10,000 annually, which just covers its $9,000 insurance costs.

"E-ONE’s ‘Tell Us Your Story’ contest has done so much more than just given a fire truck to a department in need; E-ONE and its sponsors have raised awareness of the hardships of volunteer fire departments across the country," he said.