By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — A yellow jet fuel tanker has recently been spotted outside the Newkirk Fire Department (NFD), an odd sight indeed, as NFD’s trucks are usually filled with water, not flammable materials. That truck is now being outfitted to hold water, as the department has upgraded their fleet with a much-needed tanker truck, replacing a broken vehicle, and increasing water capacity as well, especially for rural fires.
The tanker was received in September 2020, but is only now being put into service, and Fire Chief Adam Longcrier believes it will be ready for use this week.
The fuel truck, a 1996 International, was originally used as a fuel tanker for the Air National Guard in Cheyenne, Wyo. It was later decommissioned, and acquired by the Oklahoma Forestry Service (OFS), who then gave it to the city of Newkirk. The OFS provides trucks for rural and volunteer fire departments across the state.
The truck replaces an older truck thats they used as a tanker for more than a decade. They knew the truck would soon fail, and received a smaller emergency tanker from the Medford Fire Department, which they will retain with the new truck.
The primary tanker, located next to City Hall, has finally failed.
“We had an old tanker for 13 years, and it finally went down,” Longcrier said. “The engine locked down on us, and there was a failure of the air brakes.”
The new tanker has a capacity of 5,000 gallons of jet fuel, but Longcrier said that a full capacity of water would stress the axles, and they would only store about 4,200 gallons at a time.
“Water is heavier than jet fuel, so we can’t bring it to capacity,” he said.
The big process would be converting the plumbing from fuel to water, which is requiring a large overhaul of the system, including removing all the fuel lines, pumps and other paraphernalia.
“We’re putting in pumps, putting in piping, valves, all connections to make it a (water) tanker,” Longcrier said. “We had to make sure we had all the right connections to make it into a tanker truck.”
The failed tanker served the role of providing extra water, especially in rural areas outside Newkirk that may not have fire hydrants. With the newly acquired truck, they can actually install hoses on it, meaning it not only provides extra water at fires, but is a fully-functioning fire truck in its own right.
“The pump we got flows 175 gallons a minute. Now, we can have three dedicated vehicles to fight fires,” he said.
The city of Newkirk and NFD were able to acquire the truck free, which saved the community taxpayer dollars. The only cost is the purchase and installation of the new equipment, and later, the red paint and decal placement.
“Being a rural fire department, the truck didn’t cost us anything. It was acquired by the city of Newkirk because of the agreement with the OFS, which is great, because it didn’t cost taxpayers anything,” he said. “We’re not sending it off to a shop, we’re doing it in-house, so that not only saves money, but if something went wrong, we’d know how to fix it, because we built it.”
Longcrier sees more positive attributes with the new truck, and believes the NFD is better suited to fight fires across the region.
“It’s going to be a great addition here, help with our ISO rating and be a great asset in rural areas, and anywhere in Kay County, if needed,” Longcrier said.