WAREHAM – You could say Wareham Firefighters were breaking in the new brush breaker truck.
The sparkling new five-ton brush breaker hasn’t even had its service numbers painted on its sides yet.
It was carrying its full load of 750 gallons of water, and 25 gallons of foam. Along with the firefighters it was also carrying 230 or so pounds of journalist who had been invited along for the training drill Saturday.
The training exercise involved locating Chief Matt Rowley and Assistant Chief Patrick Haskell who were secreted deep in the woods on the southern end of the over 12,000-acre Myles Standish State Forest.
The firefighters had to use maps to locate them, no GPS or electronic aid allowed.
The drill also included area familiarization, off-road driver operations, wooded area maneuvering using a map, learning how to winch out vehicles, as well as drafting from local water sources, according to the WFD.
The truck was a surplus Army vehicle and provided a great savings to the department. It was built to the rugged duties and specifications required for the job by the department’s Stan Wojnowski, who rode up front with driver Firefighter-Master Mechanic Greg Barrett.
Standing in the back were firefighters Ray Crabb and Tyler Crabb, who are father and son, Lisa Pratt, and retired Police Chief John Walcek, who has returned to the Wareham Fire Dept., where he worked in the ’80s and ’90s, as a call fire captain.
Tyler kept an eye on the enveloping branches as the truck maneuvered through the rough terrain, and provided heads’ ups – or downs in this case – when the branches threatened to poke or pummel as the breaker pushed on through.
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That meant not only ducking but crouching down to avoid the tree limbs, which can come at unexpected angles.
There were two different shifts participating in the exercise. This shift, held in the morning, was led by Capt. Michael Bird.
The new brush breaker, which will become Breaker 404 when it’s lettered, followed Wareham Fire’s Breaker 402. The firefighters joked en route as the new vehicle was christened that a new paint job would be in order following the exercise.
The vehicles navigated the tight fits, steep hills, and stretches of soft sand toward the exercise’s objective. Much of the journey was over “South Line Road,” which is a generous description of the rugged access way.
But training exercises are not designed for comfort. They’re designed to prepare firefighters for the varied emergencies that come their way. And that means making them as realistic as possible.
Ray Crabb noted the department had wrapped up a long day of drilling in ice situations when a call came in for a missing swimmer in an icy pond in February that tragically turned into a rescue operation where many of the firefighters were on the scene until well after midnight.
Within about 45 minutes Saturday, the breakers had reached their goal.
Chief Rowley joked, “Greg’s going to be polishing it all week” to put the truck back in shape.
He added with a smile that the trip provided a glimpse into one of the many tasks firefighters have to perform.
And he jumped on the back of the breaker for a return lift to his vehicle.
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