By WALTER F. NAEDELE
A Bucks County volunteer fire company this week sent an old fire engine to a Mississippi firehouse battered by Hurricane Katrina - for free.
"We've been trying to sell it," Wayne Murphy said of a 1973 Hahn pumper in "very decent shape," owned by the Lingohocken Fire Company in Wycombe.
"We were asking, like, $20,000. Collectors have been interested to buy it for $5,000," said Murphy, chief of the company, located between Doylestown and Newtown Townships.
"We don't want it to get to a collector," Murphy said speaking for his firefighters. "We want it to go to somebody who's going to use it."
Lingohocken offered the truck to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Murphy said, but "nothing happened."
Echoing reports of difficulties in dealing with FEMA in the aftermath of Katrina, Murphy said, "it's mass chaos."
But Lingohocken Battalion Chief Jeff Burns, who works for the New Jersey Emergency Management Agency and is on loan to a similar Mississippi agency, cut through the confusion, Murphy said.
On Tuesday evening, a tractor-trailer donated by a firm in Carlisle, Pa., picked up the truck, as well as fire equipment donated by neighboring fire companies, and headed for Waveland, Miss.
Bill Keen, president of Keen Transport in Carlisle, said yesterday that at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, his firm also had "hauled large machines to be used in the rescue operation."
James MacAniff, a former Lingohocken firefighter, said in a phone interview from his home in Diamondhead, Miss., that he expects to deliver the pumper engine to nearby Waveland authorities tomorrow.
The town and its firehouse, on the Gulf Coast near Bay St. Louis, were "completely submerged," MacAniff said.
The firehouse has been cleaned out, but the company is using a fire truck borrowed from a nearby federal base.
"It's dry," he said of the town of Waveland, "but a wasteland."
"Most of the firemen are still here, but most of them have lost everything."