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Iraq-deployed Lejeune battalion creates own fire truck

25 Jul 2004 | Cpl. Shawn C. Rhodes

Marines from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines fashioned themselves the latest in humvee innovations.  It's got a candy-apple red finish and destined to cruise the hottest spots around camp. 

After all, that's whole point of a fire truck.   

Marines created their own firefighting machine after two fires erupted on the camp.  The fire truck was made from a humvee and spare parts lying around and though a little crude, it fits the bill.

"The chances of us getting an actual fire truck down here were none, so we had to create our own," said Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey S. Goodfred, a 26-year-old Jacksonville, N.C., battalion motor transport chief for the battalion.  "With some water tanks and a little ingenuity, the Marines had a functioning fire truck built in one day.  I've never seen anything like it before."

The fire truck was built from a humvee that didn't have armor attached, making it ideal for the Marine's purposes.  Two water tanks, totaling a 500-gallon capacity, were mounted to the back of the truck.  It was up to the Marines to find the materials to create a water pump capable of spraying the water.  One corporal with experience fighting fires took charge of the design and production of the battalion's newest weapon.

"I designed it after a brush truck which is the type of vehicle we use for fighting fires in the woods," explained Cpl. Bryan M. Voelker, a 23-year-old motor transport driver from Clinton, Conn.  "It's basically a four-wheel drive vehicle with a tank on the back."

Voelker worked for the fire department in Clinton and had some knowledge of the type of truck they needed to build. 

"For a fire truck built with absolutely no blueprint and no professional standards, it does its job really well," he added.

Marines fit square pegs into round holes, using whatever parts they could scrounge.  The construction of the vehicle was a headache from the start.

"The pump was an Iraqi pump we had sitting on the base.  We tried to hook it up to the water tanks but there was a problem," Voelker explained.  "The hoses coming from the pump to the tank were the wrong sizes.  We just stripped down a water heater we had around and solved the problem.  Just a usual case of making the wrong pieces work for the right job."

Attaching the water tanks, pump and 50-foot hoses to the humvee was done within a day.  Still, there is more to this fire truck than meets the eye.

"This fire truck is as complete as we could make it," Goodfred said.  "We attached a ladder, an axe and a few extinguishers in case of an electrical fire.  In addition we also hooked up a siren and a strobe for the interior lights."

Goodfred said that, except for the Dalmation, it was a working replica of the brush truck.

"We're thinking of getting one of the local strays and just painting him with dots so we can have a Dalmation to ride around in the truck with us," Goodfred joked.

When the truck was first outfitted it was a nightmare to see work, Voelker explained.

"I didn't have doubts that it would work, just that it would work right," he said.  "Because we were using left behind parts that weren't designed to fit together, everything leaked and the pump seized up.  We worked with it, attached some clamps and pretty soon it was ready to go."

The 500-gallon tanks were fine for a small fire but for larger ones, the Marine needed a little more back up.

"We knew we would run out of water if there was a big fire, so the fire truck was outfitted to be filled by our 7-ton water truck while operating," Goodfred said.

Voelker explained the process.

"I remembered that normally a fire truck will hook up to a hydrant for more water, so I attached a T-clamp to the hose so it could run off of the tanks or another source of water," he said.

The truck was painted and now stands ready.  Some of the Marines in Headquarters and Service Company with firefighting backgrounds were selected to be on the fire team in case a fire breaks out again.

"I've seen what a fire can do to someone and I pray we never have to use this fire truck," Voelker said.  "But it's here, just in case."

Others in the battalion are very happy the fire truck is up and running, especially those who know the dangers of fires.

"It's not just important we have a fire truck here, it's absolutely necessary," said Sgt. Jason B. Zirk, a 25 year-old machine gunner from Blacksburg, Va. 

Zirk was also a member of his town's volunteer fire department and has dealt with over 20 fires during his career. 

"Anything that burns can be an issue here," he added.  "We have to worry about everything from hot shrapnel to smoking.

"We have a saying," Zirk added.  "Smoke eaters everywhere will find a way to make do and put the wet stuff on the red stuff."