Two brand-new West Plains Fire Department trucks were officially put into service with a traditional ceremony Saturday morning at Fire Station No. 1 on Kissinger Street, a rescue pumper and brush truck.
The two trucks were christened with a ceremonial push into the fire station. The tradition goes back to the days when fire wagons and apparatus were pulled by teams of horses, Fire Chief Kurt Wilbanks commented, adding that the horses were unhitched outside the fire station and the apparatus was pushed in by hand.
Additionally, the wooden wheel spokes were wetted to keep the wood swollen and fitting securely in the wheel. That part of the ceremony was skipped for safety reasons, due to a concern the water would make the pavement slick.
The first of the two trucks, a 2023 Ferrara rescue pumper, was picked up Aug. 23 in Holden, La., having been purchased with capital improvements funding plus a $120,000 grant from Volkswagen with the stipulation that the engine from the vehicle the new truck replaced would be destroyed.
Wilbanks explained the grant was part of a class action settlement with the Volkswagen company, and was a good return on the effort as the old engine would have only brought about $10,000 maximum if sold as used.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources administers the grants as part of the Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Environmental Mitigation Trust, also known as the Volkswagen Trust Fund, and developed a 10-year Beneficiary Mitigation Plan for awarding more than $41 million to statewide projects by October 2027, according to DNR.
The funds are the result of the settlement of a class action lawsuit against Volkswagen after it was found some of the company’s vehicles were only passing federally-required emissions standards during testing.
Eligible grant applicants include government entities and private business owners with old diesel vehicles and equipment. In addition, funding is available for electric vehicle charging infrastructure installations.
A civil suit was initiated against Volkswagen in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the rigging of diesel vehicles to pass U.S. emissions standards only during testing. The case settled in 2017 with a payout intended to be distributed to certain Volkswagen owners and government entities, on the condition those entities make an effort to mitigate possible environmental damage done by inefficient and outdated engines.
A new 2023 Ford F450 brush truck was also added to the department’s fleet.
Wilbanks said the last time a new truck was purchased, that time without a grant, was in 1998, and before that, 1991.