STRATFORD - When the Stratford Fire Department took delivery of its latest piece of equipment - a 2007 Freightliner 2,400-gallon tanker truck - Fire Chief Dan Ostrem had a few concerns.
It was after all, a cold day in January with the temperature in the negative double digits.
"It was covered with ice and snow," he said. "We were concerned about it starting."
The 345-horsepower Mercedes diesel engine proved its mettle.
"It started," he said.
The department purchased the truck for $80,000 from a used equipment broker whom Ostrem located online.
"It was a fluke that I checked," he said.
Part of the reason for the favorable price - a truck with the same specifications usually sells for $150,000 to $180,000 - had to do with the location: Toronto, Canada.
Ostrem said the broker took care of all the import papers and customs. It took two days to transport it to Stratford on a flatbed.
The truck, which features modern LED lights, a quick dump valve and an automatic transmission, replaces a 1,600-gallon truck of 1995 vintage.
"It was fine at the time," he said. "It just wasn't fitting our needs anymore."
Ostrem said the new-to-them tanker truck offers a host of improvements over the old unit.
The automatic transmission means that all of the firefighters can drive the unit. The LED lighting is a considerable improvement over the old truck and even features an arrow display on the rear to indicate to traffic which way to go around it. Internally, the tank has five baffles to retard the sloshing of the water as its driven; the old tank only had one. The equipment compartments are all enclosed on the new unit too.
The biggest improvement?
"It holds 800 more gallons of water," he said.
The only thing the department hasn't been able to do yet is use it at an actual fire, although all members have driven it in training. There will be plenty of chances for them to actually use it. Ostrem expects the department to get 25 to 30 years of service from it.
The money to purchase the unit came from the department's budget. He said they set aside an amount each year that's earmarked for buying equipment. They will continue that practice.
"We're starting to be in need of a grass-fire truck," he said.
The current unit, a 1983 vintage military truck, has seen better days.
The Stratford Fire Department has 30 members, 21 of which are EMTs. He said they answer 160-180 medical calls and 30-40 fire calls each year.
"We're a pretty busy department," he said.