ST. GEORGE — Earlier this month Dixie Technical College received a firetruck donated by the city of St. George that school and city officials say will greatly aid the school’s firefighter training program.
“This donation is a big deal to us,” Dixie Tech President Kelle Stephens told St. George News.
The 1974 Van Pelt firetruck is the school’s first piece of structure fire equipment and will aid greatly in the training of firefighters and students pursuing firefighting careers, Stephens said.
While the school has offered wildland firefighter training through its Emergency Response Center, it has been able to expand its offerings to structural fire training with the help of the Utah Fire and Rescue Academy.
Before the partnership with the academy, firefighters had to go to Utah Valley University in Orem for structural fire training. Now they can remain in Washington County.
“And one of the big additions is this wonderful firetruck,” Stephens said. “You can’t train fire skills without the proper equipment.”
Dixie Tech’s Emergency Response Center, created out of the remodeled terminal of the old St. George Municipal Airport, is designed to be a one-stop-shop for emergency response training of all kinds.
The center is used by area police, fire and ambulance personnel for training on a routine basis.
“This is a pretty busy place,” Stephens said.
The donated firetruck is now playing a part in that training, particularly during the winter fire school that the Utah Fire and Rescue Academy held on Dixie Tech’s campus last week.
The city of St. George bought the firetruck used from the West Covina Fire Department in California in 1990. The truck was on active duty for 10 years, said David Cordero, the city’s communications director.
Known as “Engine 23” during its years of service, the firetruck was housed at the fire station in Bloomington Hills and later at 2450 East. It was eventually placed on reserve status.
With the recent acquisition of three new firetrucks by the St. George Fire Department, Engine 23 was among the aging trucks the city considered taking to auction. However, when the department realized the return on that effort would be minimal, Cordero said the city found another way to clear out its extra firetrucks.
“We approached the city administration about seeing if we could donate those to any department in need, and then we checked the technical colleges throughout the state,” he said. “Wendover, Utah, took one of the trucks. When we became aware that Dixie Tech had a need, we acted quickly to fill the need.”
Considering a new firetruck can cost nearly $1 million, Cordero said schools like Dixie Tech running on a limited budget likely would not have been able to afford one.
“Even $15,000-20,000 is usually out of their reach,” he said.
In addition to being used for firefighter training, Stephens said the former Engine 23 will also be maintained and tinkered with by the tech school’s diesel mechanic students.
Cordero said it amazed him how much life the firetruck still had in it after 45 years.
“In additional saving lives, it will now train the next generation of firefighters who will be saving lives,” he said.
Though it’s an older truck and doesn’t sport some of the equipment found on modern firetrucks, that isn’t an issue for Stephens.
“The new firetrucks have more bells and whistles, they have a little more technology, but basically they all do the same thing, and this firetruck has everything that we need to be able to teach firefighters how to put fires out,” she said. “We expect to have it and use it for many years.”
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