By Roger Dey
Blackfoot Valley Dispatch 

LVFD's tactical water tender, 'Big John,' ready for action


Roger Dey

Lincoln Fire Chief Zach Muse and Lincoln Rural Fire District Chairman Bill Frisbee inspect the recently completed water tender.

After nearly two years, work on the Lincoln Volunteer Fire Department's new tactical water tender is finished and the department's latest piece of firefighting equipment is ready for action.

Fire Apparatus Repair of Missoula built the 2500-gallon tender on an Army surplus 2006 Freightliner 6x6 chassis acquired in 2016 through the Federal Excess Property program.

The cost of modifying the new vehicle was covered by income from the state and the Forest Service for wildland firefighting and fundraising through the Fireman's Ball. In January those funds were topped off by a $13,000 grant from the Montana Community Foundation's Montana Wildfire Relief Fund.

Lincoln Fire Chief Zach Muse spent much of Sunday, June 10 ensuring the truck, nicknamed "Big John," is functional and fire ready. He explained that the new truck comes with several features that make it a more effective firefighting tool, including six-wheel drive, an automatic transmission, a front mounted nozzle that can be controlled from inside the cab, a hose reel under the tank that bumps it up to a Type II tender for wildfire use and a 750-gallon per minute pump.

"It's structure capable because of the size of the pump," Muse said. Once a bit of final work to install hose fittings is complete, he said it'll have hoses that can come out both sides. "So it's just like a structure truck. It's gonna help us."

The pump and the larger tank can also earn the LVFD additional funding during wildfire season, almost doubling the rate the state or federal government has paid to mobilize the old tender, which is equipped with a 150 gpm pump.

"Everything is so convenient, and the truck is just a beast," Muse said.

The new rig has also been outfitted with a few extra bells and whistles, such as a ten gallon foam tank that can be brought online once more money is available for further modifications.

"While (Fire Apparatus Repair) had it, we had everything done so it will be cheaper for us to add more functions," Muse said.

After first taking possession of the truck in 2016, the Fire Department sent it to Montana State Prison, where inmates stripped off the tactical paint job and refinished it in the LVFD's white and blue livery. Then it was a matter of working to raise the funding needed to build the rest of the tender.

Roger Dey

Big John


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