contributed…..SPARTA, Wis. – For the first time in the history of its Fire Protection Technician program, Western Technical College has purchased a new fire truck for training. To celebrate, the college welcomed the truck today with a special event featuring speakers, a traditional housing ceremony, and a reception.  Administrators, faculty, students, and two local fire department chiefs participated in the event. Representatives spoke about the importance of training students on the latest equipment. Prior to the new vehicle, the program used a 30-year-old apparatus, which lacks many of safety and technological advances of today’s fire engines.

“Most of our students are younger than the previous truck we had,” said instructor Gordie Billings. “This state-of-the-art equipment allows students to train on the rigs they will be working with after they graduate and ensures that they join crews with the proper training.”   “The students should feel fortunate to be training on this equipment,” added La Crosse Fire Chief Gregg Cleveland. “It can be used for both degree and professional training. I can’t thank Western enough for the program and the collaboration.”

Following the speakers, the traditional housing ceremony consisted of three steps. First, the equipment was transferred from the old truck to the new truck, representing the seamless transition of ready equipment from the past to the present. Next, the wheels of the new truck were washed, which comes from the hub and spoke wooden wheels era, when the tires were washed down to keep the wheels from drying and cracking. And, finally attendees pushed the new truck into the garage. This practice dates back to the 1830s when fire engines were pulled by a team of horses and needed to be pushed back into the fire station after a fire.  “Training and equipment has come a long way,” noted Chief Mike Arnold of the Sparta Rural Fire Department. “This Pierce apparatus was Wisconsin-built and you should be very proud. It allows training on the most up-to-date equipment that is in most of the departments.”

The new truck was purchased from Pierce Manufacturing in Appleton, Wis. for $209,000. The old vehicle will be kept on-site and used as a backup for pumping water.