By Karen Zautyk
A few weeks back, in our article about the Kearny Fire Department’s new fireboat, we mentioned in passing the massive, camouflage-clad Army truck parked across from KFD headquarters on Midland Ave.
It intrigued us, as did another vehicle in front of HQ , a futuristic-looking, (traditionally) bright-red truck bearing the words “Quick Attack.”
Each has a story, and both will be used to protect and save the people of Kearny and neighboring communities and perhaps beyond.
First, the Quick Attack.
The state-of-the-art truck is, explained Fire Chief Steve Dyl, “an augmenting piece of equipment,” dispatched to blazes along with the usual fire engines. “It carries two nozzles, each capable of delivering 1,200 gallons of water per minute,” he said.
One of them can also deliver the 125 gallons of foam that the truck carries to fight gasoline, oil and diesel fuel fires.
The Quick Attack is able to fit into tight spaces where engines and other equipment cannot go and it can better handle tricky terrain, such as the swampy, uneven turf in the meadowlands.
Being sort of a truck-of-all-trades, it also has its own 10- foot plow as well as a hydraulic lift, and it’s the vehicle used to tow the fireboat, Marine 3, to whatever river launch site has been selected.
The Quick Attack, built by the low-bidder J.W. Kennedy Co. in Trenton, cost $75,000. Of the total, $56,250 came from a Port Security grant awarded to the KFD by FEMA/Homeland Security. The Town of Kearny kicked in the remaining $18,750.
The Newark FD has a similar Quick Attack, having applied jointly with Kearny for the grant.
Jersey City, Dyl noted, has an older version. But these are the only three in the immediate area.
It falls under the port security designation since, for one example, “a warehouse fire in Kearny could conceivably create problems” for the Port of New York and New Jersey, and the region, affecting commerce, Dyl explained.
And since it was funded by a port grant, “its assets will be deployed regionally.”
Now, what about that notso- new, obviously already well-used Army truck? No one knows for sure, since it came with no history, but it very well could have carried troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. Or maybe it lived its previous life on military bases stateside.
In any case, it now has a home in Kearny, where it is expected to be invaluable in rescues.
“We started looking at this [an Army truck] in August 2011 when Hurricane Irene flooded South Kearny,” Dyl said. “A military vehicle with high clearance can get into deep waters.”
The need was even more obvious after Hurricane Sandy, when the KFD rescued “dozens” of people — stuck in flooded homes east of Schuyler Ave., trapped in swamped buildings in South Kearny, or stranded, terrified, on a car roof while waters rose around them.
The KFD had registered with the federal General Services Administration, seeking a surplus military vehicle. These are posted online. “We were constantly checking the GSA website to see what was available,” Dyl said.
When the department saw something that appeared suitable for its needs, Deputy Chief Ozzie Osborn was dispatched to check it out in person.
Osborn made several “trial runs,” including at least two to Fort Dix, before the right one was found.
Osborn then met with military personnel and applied through the State Police, which administers surplus for the GSA.
The KFD took delivery on the 1990, five-ton “6×6” in June of this year.
The cost? Nothing. Zero, zip, nada. Fire departments that meet the requirements can get a surplus vehicle for free. They just have to promise to put it into service within a year and use it for at least a year.
As for operating the behemoth, the KFD has personnel with experience, among them Firefighter Tom Grieb, whom we met when we viewed the trucks. Grieb, a U.S. Marine veteran, drove exactly this type of vehicle during his two tours in Iraq, in 2003 and 2004.
The truck, Dyl said, can make its way through water 3-to-4 feet deep and also (look at the tires) readily travel through deep snow. (As well as sand, we presume.)
“We’ll use it as needed,” the chief said. “The situation will dictate it.”
The “6×6” is likely to be stationed in South Kearny, after the Sandy-damaged firehouse down there is ready for reoccupation. Work is being completed on the electrical wires and telephone lines, and it is hoped the station will reopen “sometime in August,” Dyl said.