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The decision probably isn’t in any manual or on a list of Minot Fire Department regulations. But extreme situations sometimes call for thinking outside the box.
So Battalion Chief Mason Maxwell made the decision to put a recently retired piece of Fire Department equipment back into service during last week’s historic snow storm that dumped 48 inches of snow on Minot and the surrounding area.
The result? A safer community and an improved response time during one of the worst snow storms in Minot’s history.
“We could not get around to a lot of areas of town because of the snow, and even our plows were getting stuck,” Maxwell said. “So I put it into service on the south side of town.”
“It” is a 1992 airport rescue and firefighting truck that was decommissioned in late 2021 because it no longer meets Federal Aviation Administration standards regarding the amount of water and firefighting foam it can pump. Finding parts for the 1992 truck is impossible, so the department stopped using it at the airport.
But in a time of need, Maxwell found a new purpose for the truck, putting it to use during the snowstorm to drive firefighters to locations that couldn’t be reached by regular trucks because of the rapidly accumulating snow.
“It’s almost like a monster truck. It’s four-wheel drive and it goes through almost anything,” fellow Battalion Chief Jason Babinchak said. “We just thought this truck could be useful in this situation. It’s still in good shape, even though this isn’t what it was intended to be used for.”
When new, the truck sold for $297,000 in 1992. It has a Detroit V8 engine that produces 540 brake horsepower.
The Fire Department responded to 67 calls for service during the worst 72 hours of the storm. Most were medical assistance calls and reports of potential gas leaks or reports of carbon monoxide, with a few false alarms mixed in.
“We were trying to get there any way we could. We used the snow plows to help us get around when we needed,” Maxwell said. “The plows would clear a path for us and the ambulance to get to the scene of a call. The ambulances would not have gotten to any of those calls without the plows. Those plow drivers really stepped up and helped us keep the community safe at all times.”
The firefighters also used the 1992 truck to blast through deep snow on their way to many of the calls. They transferred medical equipment bags from backup Fire Department trucks to the bright green behemoth, knowing the vehicle would allow them to reach the scene of calls without assistance from plows.
“We were pushing snow up to the bumper on this vehicle, but it never slowed us down. We went right through,” Maxwell said. “The roads were plugged and we needed to get to all the calls. So what do you do? We made the decision to use this old truck, and it worked great.”
The Fire Department will conduct a review of what transpired during the storm, making note of solutions that worked and what could be done differently if there’s a next time. It’s safe to say using the 1992 truck was one decision that will get positive reviews.
“Just because it can’t be used at the airport doesn’t mean it can’t still be useful,” Babinchak said of the truck. “This was a great example of Mason thinking outside the box to do what needed to be done.”