The Solon Springs Volunteer Fire Department has added a new engine and side-by-side to its fleet.
The Darley F-550 quick attack fire truck is a jack of all trades, according to Fire Chief Jonathon Brostowitz. It can be used for everything from medical calls and ATV, snowmobile and automobile accidents to wildland fires and water pumping points.
“This unit can be used on every call we receive,” Brostowitz said. “It’s unreal what this unit is capable of.”
The department responds to 160-180 calls a year. In 2019, it responded to 161 calls.
The $325,000 engine, built in Chippewa Falls, rolled into Lake Nebagamon April 9. It went into service the first weekend of May and was called to a wildland fire the following weekend.
“It’s a lot more nimble than our other engine,” said longtime Solon Springs firefighter Chuck Walt.
The four-wheel drive rig can navigate tight driveways better than others in the fleet. Although it holds less water than a traditional engine, Walt said, it’s designed specifically to use foam, which is employed at the majority of fires. The new unit replaced a 1983 engine that failed pump testing and a 1996 brush truck with mechanical issues.
“With the purchase of this new rig, we are planning to get a better insurance rating for our businesses and residents,” Brostowitz said.
The cost of the new unit is being split between the town and village of Solon Springs. Town of Solon Springs residents approved a referendum for their share of the cost in April 2019 by a vote of 107 to 98.
“It’s a great asset for the town,” said Town Board President Angela Botner.
Village Board President Tom Stewart said he was hesitant about the rig at first because of its smaller size, but was impressed by its capabilities.
The new side-by-side was purchased with donations from individuals and businesses, including the Jim Hill Memorial, Gene Baer Memorial, Enbridge, Canadian National Railroad and community members, as well as fire department fundraisers over the past four years.
“It will see a lot of use,” Brostowitz said of the new vehicle, which replaces the department’s aging 1994 one.
The department has applied for a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources grant to equip the side-by-side with a slip-in unit for fighting wildland fires and carrying patients.
Brostowitz and Walt gave a shout-out to the community for their support.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everybody that has helped make this possible for us to have the tools and equipment that we need to go out and do the job when the alarm goes off,’ Brostowitz said. “We have a community that really cares about our department, cares about our members and understands how important emergency services are, so they really help us out.”
Training is needed to get used to the newer vehicles, which incorporate advanced technology. The department has been holding small group training on the new engine, and about half the members have gone through it.
Firefighters and medical first responders are always needed by volunteer fire departments in Douglas County. Solon Springs is no exception.
“We’re always looking for members to join,” Brostowitz said. “It’s actually fun to be on the department; it’s like a little family.”