“Here it comes,” one of the volunteers shouted, referring to the newest addition to the Beeville Volunteer Fire Department’s fleet of shiny, new fire trucks.
It was a sight to behold as the vehicle approached the fire station, emergency lights blinking, the siren and horn sounding and vehicles pulling over for a good look as much as for getting out of the way.
The white, steel, hydraulic ladder atop the 10-wheeled rig was emblazoned with the words “BEEVILLE” and the platform suspended over the large windshield had the words “TOWER 1 BEEVILLE” painted on it with red and blue stripes.
Assistant Fire Chief Bill Burris said later that the new tower vehicle is the most modern ladder truck on the road anywhere between Houston and Laredo.
And it belongs to the City of Beeville and the BVFD.
The new truck was received by an anxious welcoming committee made up mostly of fire department members.
Fire Chief Donnie Morris and Assistant Chiefs Burris and Lanny Holland were there along with BVFD President Ronald “Buddy” Hardy and a variety of captains, lieutenants and firemen of all ages, ready to board the vehicle and start checkout out the new truck.
Minutes later City Manager Tom Ginter and Councilmen John Fulghum and David Carabajal arrived.
Ryan Lee, the salesman who first brought a demonstration model of the truck to Beeville earlier in the year, and his boss, Pat Siddons, owner of the Siddons-Martin Emergency Group of Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico, piled out of their vehicles and met the firemen.
The staff at the Siddons-Martin facilities in Houston had been equipping the truck and putting the graphics on it for several weeks after receiving it from the Pierce Manufacturing Co. in Appleton, Wis.
The truck is equipped with a 100-foot, steel, hydraulic ladder and platform that can be used for fighting fires and rescue operations, plucking victims from tall, burning buildings and out of the raging waters of rain-swollen creeks and rivers.
Morris said the water rescue capabilities of the new truck are what interest him most. The chief has had to launch his personal boat in Poesta Creek or wade out into the waters with a line tied around him during several high-water rescue operations over the years.
It was a photo of a conventional ladder stretched out to a second story window outside the Bee County Courthouse that sold the City Council on spending the $986,286 to buy the truck and pay for a five-year maintenance plan during a meeting in late October.
That decision came after BVFD members and Lee spoke to the council and outlined a payment plan for the purchase.
Carabajal, who made the motion to purchase the vehicle during that October meeting, stood at the back end of the truck, marveling at the technology and equipment on it and said he had been asked several times why a fire truck would cost a million dollars.
“You look at this thing and everything on it and you realize $1 million is cheap,” Carabajal said.
Department members underwent three days of training with the first session on Sunday. That class centered around the operation of the truck’s pump.
Then on Monday and Tuesday, David Neuber, a Pierce employee from Wisconsin, was in town to train the firemen on the operation of the aerial equipment.
On Monday afternoon at Bee County College, firemen extended the ladder out to its full 100 feet and turned on the huge water lines at the front of the platform.
On Tuesday, the training moved to the grounds of the Bee County Exposition Center.
On Saturday, Carabajal stood looking at the truck and said, “If it saves one life, it’ll pay for itself.”
Firemen and city officials standing nearby simply nodded their agreement.
Burris said the department will schedule a special showing of the new truck on Dec. 27 at City Hall.
That will be the City Council’s final meeting of 2011.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.