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Bigelow Fire Department gets new grant

Bigelow Fire Department member Terry Neugebauer stands next to the new 3,200-gallon tanker the department purchased with a $175,000 grant from FEMA's Assistance to Firefighters program.

BIGELOW -- For the first time in the history of the Bigelow Fire Department, a brand new truck has been added to its firefighting fleet.

The 2011 Kenworth tanker was officially put into service on Sept. 11 and, though it has been used in some practice drills, has yet to be put into action in a true fire situation.

That's just fine with Bigelow Fire Chief Paul Hohensee. He'd rather not have any fires.

Back in March, the fire department learned it was selected to receive a 2010 Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters Grant of $175,000. The city of Bigelow had to contribute 5 percent toward the cost of the truck.

After taking bids on a new tanker, the department opted for a 3,200-gallon tanker with a portable pump that came in at about $1,000 under the total grant amount.

The truck will replace a 1988 Chevy tanker the department purchased used from the Department of Natural Resources several years ago. That model was originally a military truck and had been converted by the department.

"This truck's actually built for trucking water, where that DNR truck was actually a fuel tanker for an air base," Hohensee said.

As a stipulation of the FEMA grant, the 2,000-gallon Chevy tanker truck cannot be sold for use by another fire department. Instead, Hohensee said they will put it up for public bid.

"If farmers wanted to buy it for hauling water for their farm use for spraying, it could be used for that," he said. "It could be used for a city truck to haul water to clean the streets or the racetrack could buy it to water the track, but it could never be used for fire service again."

Hohensee said the added capacity of the new tanker truck is critical to a rural fire department such as Bigelow's.

"That 1,000 gallons will give you a minute -- a minute and a half -- more of spraying water," he said. "You can have the newest and best fire trucks they build, but when you're fighting a rural fire, you've got to have water supply or it doesn't do you any good."

Hohensee said if it weren't for the FEMA grants, small departments would have quite a challenge to replace aging equipment.

"For a smaller community like Bigelow, they don't have a large tax base because they don't have a lot of businesses in town," he said. "For Bigelow to go out and purchase something like that, it would take years of fundraising and saving."

The Bigelow Fire Department covers a large area, and has mutual aid agreements with the surrounding communities of Worthington, Rushmore, Brewster and Round Lake, in addition to the Iowa communities of Ocheyedan, Sibley and Lake Park.

"By getting the truck, other cities will benefit also through mutual aid calls," Hohensee said.

"(The truck is) something we really needed," he added. "We've always bought refurbished pumpers out of New York and Pennsylvania. This is the first new fire truck we've ever had."

In 2009, the Bigelow Fire Department received a $95,000 grant for new turnout gear and self-contained breathing apparatus units.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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