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Fla. city switches back to red fire trucks

The changeover will be gradual, beginning with three new rescue units

By Anne Lindberg
The St. Petersburg Times

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — It appears the city’s not-exactly-yellow and not-exactly-green fire trucks will soon go the way of avocado and harvest gold, those other That ‘70s Show colors.

The City Council approved the purchase of the first three red vehicles — rescue units, which look like ambulances — at last Thursday’s meeting. Total price for the three: $463,651.

Pinellas Park fire Chief Doug Lewis said the decision to go red came after Jerry Mullins, the newest member of the council, asked about the color of the city’s trucks. Lewis polled the firefighters and of the 60 percent who answered the survey, 71 percent wanted to go red. When Lewis asked the staff, “which is most of us older guys,” the pro-red approval rating dropped to 61 percent. But it was still a majority, so red it was.

The changeover will be gradual, coming only as the city buys new trucks. The decision to forgo repainting the current trucks was based on cost. Lewis said it’s expensive to repaint a fire truck, and to do so just for looks would not be fiscally responsible. So, it’ll be “a number of years before we’re totally red,” he said.

So for now, most of the fleet will remain that neon yellowey limey — what is that color?

“It’s, well, it depends on the manufacturer,” former Pinellas Park fire Chief Ken Cramer said. For “most of them, it’s either lime green or lime yellow. We’ve always called it lime green.”

But officially, it is 8844U, which is the number the manufacturer used when the city ordered trucks. Pinellas Park ordered the first 8844U-colored truck in 1972, Cramer said.

“It was supposed to be more safety conscious,” he said.

That’s an argument Cramer never believed. He wanted to go red and even once submitted an article to Firehouse magazine extolling the virtues of red. It was rejected. And he was unsuccessful at trying to convert Pinellas Park to red back in the 1980s.

So Cramer was delighted to hear that Pinellas Park is going red.

And it’s not just any red. Nor is it fire engine red. It’s a deep red that matches “Francis,” the 1925 American LaFrance fire engine that the city still has and hauls out for parades and other events. It’s the first motorized engine the city bought.

Lewis was busy last week making sure paint chips for the new vehicles matched Francis as closely as possible.

With Pinellas Park joining the majority of Pinellas departments in going red, that leaves Seminole and a few others in the non-red category. Most, if not all, of those are white with some other color.

Seminole has had white trucks since the 1970s, fire Chief Dan Graves said.

“From our perspective white’s just easier to take care of. So we just kind of stuck with it,” he said. And, now, at a scene, “you’ll be able to tell which one’s mine. No doubt.”

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