New minitruck proves its worth quickly

Harrisburg Fire Chief Bryan Dunn said the department's newest piece of equipment, a used Japanese mini-truck, has already proved vital since going into service earlier this year.

A dedication ceremony for the vehicle was Dec. 14, but it has been in service since May. The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation awarded the department a $6,000 grant to purchase the vehicle. Area companies donated upgrades, including new wheels, tires and a paint job.

The department had included the utility vehicle in its capital plan the last five years, said Dunn, but wasn't able to buy it because of budget constraints.

Already it has been used to supply Emergency Medical Technician services at youth football games and during the town's recent Christmas tree lighting, and it aided in putting out a 2-acre brush fire in October.

"We got the idea that this would be something good to use for all the special events that we have to deal with," said Dunn. "We deal with the speedway two weeks in May and a weekend in October. It allows access to places we may not otherwise get to in a timely manner."

The 1999 Daihatsu Hijet, which has about 100,000 kilometers on it, came from Japan via a dealer in Virginia. The vehicle will allow firefighters and EMTs to reach remote locations, assist with brush fires and transport victims and other supplies more quickly.

The 200-year firefighting heritage of the founders of Firehouse Subs inspired the creation of the foundation. Its goal is to provide life-saving equipment and disaster relief as well as education to first responders.

Since 2005, Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has donated more than $250,000 to public safety in North Carolina. The foundation has donated more than $3.1 million to 275 communities in 22 states.

"They reached out to us trying to find some way to purchase this Japanese mini-truck to help the department," said Justin Scotto, franchisee of the Concord Firehouse Subs location. He helped organize the grant.

"It was just the right thing to do, and it means even more to the community when the truck is called to action. These heroes deserve the best tools, training and technology, and our foundation is here to help make that happen."

The vehicle's key assets are its size and maneuverability.

"We were excited to get it because the need was long overdue," said Ken Bradey, deputy chief of the Harrisburg Fire Department. "It allows us to do a lot more, and it just brings a different aspect to our fire service."

It looks like a small pickup truck, similar to a Kawasaki Mule, but with a longer truck bed, said Bradey.

It also could help during a land search for a missing person.

"It's very versatile; it'll surprise you where it will go," said Bradey. "I think it weighs 1,400 pounds. We're just tickled to death to have it. It's already proven itself, and I'm sure it's going to continue to prove itself."

The department used to borrow a vehicle from town's park department for the tasks the mini-truck now handles.

"It's just another tool in our toolbox to be able to serve the citizens," Dunn added.

Eventually, the department plans to add additional medical gear and equipment to carry and pump water to the mini-truck.