Alden Fire Department hopes fundraiser will allow the purchase of a new rig soon

Published 9:26 am Thursday, August 27, 2015

ALDEN — The Alden Fire Department has been fundraising for an UTV Wildlife and Firefighting Rescue Rig as part of a three-year plan that may finally come to fruition after this weekend’s pork chop and sweet corn feed.

The best time for a fire department to be equipped to handle a fire is before it happens, not after, which is why Alden Fire Chief Jim Thunstedt presented the Alden City Council with a three-year plan that would help purchase the rig.

According to Thunstedt, the fire district his department covers includes about 800 acres of Department of Natural Resources state-funded grasslands. He feared a fire or other emergency could develop in those areas and because of the terrain, a larger fire truck would not be able to be utilized.

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One such scenario played out last spring. A train operator called 911 reporting a fire on the tracks and the Alden Fire Department was dispatched to the scene. To get the blaze the department had no choice, but to take a minimum maintenance road. Eventually the truck got stuck in mud and they had to call on the assistance of a nearby farmer to use his tractor to free their vehicle. Only then were they able to reach the scene and extinguish the fire.

“This vehicle would have been ideal in this situation,” Thunstedt said, explaining that particular scenario could have been much worse. The direction of the winds that day were in the favor of the fire department. He said if they would have been blowing another direction, the fire would have been much harder to contain.

The UTV Wildlife and Fire Fighting Rescue rig is built to cover rougher terrain like the firemen faced this day. It features an 80-gallon water tank plus a five-gallon foam tank. Thunstedt said the foam is mixed with the water and makes it much more effectively, potentially allowing 80 gallons of water to be as efficient as using twice as much water. The rig can also be refilled by the larger trucks nearby.

In addition to its firefighting capabilities, the rig could also be used in rescue situations to carry out anyone who is injured in a more remote location. Not only could first responders get to a patient in a more timely fashion; a backboard can be attached to the unit so the patient can be brought to an awaiting ambulance.

To date, about $19,000 has been raised for the rig through the city of Alden’s fire department budget allowance, various grants and donations and previous pork chop and sweet corn feeds. The vehicle itself costs about $25,000. On average, Thunstedt reported they clear about $3,500 to $4,000 with this fundraiser. Add in the $3,500 matching funds grant they can get from the Department of Natural Resources, and they could order the unit and have it by fall.

“Spring and fall are the worst times for grass fires,” he said.

Thunstedt is hopeful this event will indeed be the last they need to buy the rig.

“The community really supports us in coming out to it,” he said.

Future fundraisers can be used to replace equipment or for further training of their firefighters and first responders.

The Alden Volunteer Fire Department Relief Association Annual Open House Pork Chop and Sweet Corn Feed is event is from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the fire station in Alden.  Pork chops or hot dogs, all-you-can-eat sweet corn, baked beans, Mrs. Gerry’s potato salad and a beverage will be served. The event is open to the public.