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Ill. FD sports new color scheme with new fire engines

New fire engines are the first of several changes for the Moline Fire Department

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Moline Fire Department/Facebook

By Grace Kinnicutt
Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus

MOLINE, Ill. — A new look is coming in hot at the Moline Fire Department.

Moline Fire Department officially put Engines 11 and 13, or “the twins”, into service last week, replacing engines that were at least 20 years old. The new engines are custom outfitted that improves efficiency and provides more space and a safer platform for firefighters.

The new engines also sport a new color palette — black over red with gold lettering. It’s the first color change in 25 years, moving away from white-on-red for a more modern look.

Fire Chief Steve Regenwether said a lot of time went into designing the new engines and that safety and efficiency were the two key factors. The engines, he said, are bigger and more powerful to better address community needs — plus drive up the hilly landscape throughout the city.

“A lot of thought was given to the staffing, equipment and gear,” he said.

A commission from the fire department took part in every step of the process. The commission included Regenwether, Lt. Jerry Sottos, Firefighters/Paramedics Austin Rands, Kevin Sorby, Drew Taylor and Dave Jansen.

The commission worked with Legacy Fire Appartus and Sutphen Corporation on the engines. Ohio-based Sutphen Corporation built the engines and Legacy was essentially the “dealer” and helped figure out what would work and what wouldn’t, Sottos said.

“This is our truck for a long time,” said Sottos. “We wanted this truck to work for our city.”

Gathering feedback, Sottos said, played a huge role in the engines’ design. Feedback was gathered from surrounding fire departments, along with asking a few of their own what could help make the engines more durable and efficient.

The smaller details

The biggest improvement for the crew is the amount of space to store equipment, tools and gear. With being in the ‘what if’ business, Sottos said, firefighters have to be prepared for anything and factor in everything they need to bring on scenes and how best it can be stored.

“We know what caused problems in the past and we took that into account,” Sottos said. “We can’t always anticipate what happens.”

Though some changes are more noticeable than others, a lot of small details were put into the engines to maximize space. On the side of the engine, hidden compartments behind heavy-duty red tarps and small doors can be found.

Behind those doors or tarps, equipment and gear can be stored. In one of the cabinets closer to the back of the engine, the “jaws of life” sit on a shelf about hip height and two more shelves above it are filled with other tools and equipment — all on shelves that slide out and make it easier to grab.

The back of the engine also stores extra hoses that are hidden behind a heavy-duty, red tarp-like material that attaches to the truck. The tarp protects the hoses from weathering.

Closer to the front there also is cabinet space on the side of the engine to store more gear and tools. Other cabinets near the back of the truck can be found which hold stabilizing equipment, oil dry and other needed equipment.

Hoses also are organized by color and length on their own shelves, making it easy to grab based on what length firefighters might need. A bottom shelf holds 150-feet white hoses, middle shelf holds 200-feet yellow hoses and the top shelf holds 250-feet navy blue hoses. The hoses also have green stripes, to tell who’s department hose it is when mulitple fire agencies are responding to a fire.

The inside has four seats with the two front seats and two back seats. Deputy Chief Kris Johnson said the back could have a few more seats but instead has extra cabinet space for medical and other needed equipment.

It’s required for everything to be contained and put away, Johnson said, and it’s important to have a clean and safe cab to find equipment and make it easy to get in and out when on scenes. Two cabinets can be found directly behind the driver and passenger seat, with multiple shelves that have nets and straps to prevent equipment from falling out.

Hooks also are placed on the ceiling of the cab where the headsets go when not in use.

Cabinet space also can be found next to the two back seats and above along with hooks for fire helmets and a spot for flashlights between the two cabinets behind the front seats — almost where a center car console would be.

Space for the firefighters in the cab also were taken into consideration, providing extra room for them and some gear near their feet.

The engine also took a step back in time with one technology: manual windows.

The buttons for the automatic windows were a bit more difficult to clean, Johnson said, and so they decided to make the switch back to the days of having to roll the windows up and down yourself.

The engines were approved by the city council in November 2021 for a total of $1.3 million, according to the city documents. Fleet and Facilities Manager Sarah Mark previously told the Quad-City Times/Dispatch-Argus that each engine was $675,636.28 and were budgeted in fiscal years 2022 and 2023.

One of the old engines has been put into reserve and the other one is on loan at the Rock Island Fire Department after two of RIFD’s engines were found to have problems and an expert advised the department to not use them.

New things still coming

The fire department also will be full-staffed come Monday, Dec. 4 , Regenwether said. Training and getting new firefighters down to the fire academy, he said, will be need to happen in between but that it’s a great feeling to reach a full-staffed department.

Come July 2024, the fire department also expects to have three new ambulances sporting the black over red color to match the engines. City council approved the three new ambulances in June 2022 for $924,648, with a portion of the funds coming from the American Rescue Plan Act.

A new UTV and smaller squad vehicle that has tool cabinets and pumping capability also was put into service this year. They also sport the new black-over-red with gold lettering colors.

In March 2023, council also approved a third engine to replace Engine 14 for $847,336. Engine 14 is expected to arrive in June 2025.

Most recently, the council budgeted for a new central fire station in 2026-2027. A firm did a relocation study analysis and the central station will need to be relocated in an area of 7th Street and 13th Avenue near Stephens Park.

Regenwether previously said there is city-owned land near the park and that the new fire station would also consist of the fire administrative offices.

The new facility is expected to cost up to $28 million and will require bonding. Two million has already been set aside for the design and budgeted for 2026, with $26 million budgeted in 2027.

(c)2023 Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, Ill.
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