CHURCH HILL — Christmas is coming early for Hawkins County’s small, rural Clinch Valley Volunteer Fire Department, which will receive a gift of two badly needed fire trucks from Church Hill on Saturday.
CVVFD Chief Earl Middleton told the Times News Tuesday those fire trucks are a “godsend” for his department, which currently has two of its four fire trucks offline due to mechanical problems.
“Trying to keep the community safe is our No. 1 priority, and if our equipment isn’t functioning, it’s kind of hard to do that,” Middleton said. “We don’t have the resources to go out and buy fire trucks, not without getting grants. Being a small volunteer department, it’s hardscrabble for a lot of us, and we’re not the only ones. There’s a lot of volunteer departments that would have been blessed with this donation, and we’re just very fortunate that we’re the ones who were this year.”
Middleton noted that the mountainous terrain in the Clinch Valley community is hard on fire trucks.
With two fire trucks down, the CVVFD has only two in operation, and this gift puts the department back up to four. When repairs are completed on the other two, the CVVFD will have six, which will be the most it has ever had.
Last month the Church Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved Mayor Dennis Deal’s request to donate the two vehicles to Clinch.
CHFD Chief Luke Wood said the department wasn’t using those trucks and they were just taking up space.
Both trucks are front line pumpers. One is a 1983 GMC Fire Cat, which was one of the first trucks purchased by the CHPD. The other is a 1978 Ford FMC.
Both have 1,000 gallon tanks and a 1,250 gallon per minute pump capacity.
Wood told the Times News Tuesday both trucks have been well-maintained, are in good condition, and he sees no reason why the CVVFD couldn’t get another 10-15 years of heavy use out of them.
The initial plan was to try to sell the trucks.
When Church Hill officials learned how little the trucks would probably bring, less than $10,000 each, the decision was made to give them to an area department in need.
“I had taken some classes with former Clinch Valley Chief Steve Seal, and he told me they were hurting for equipment,” Wood said. “He said, ‘We've had a couple trucks go down, and we’re running on two trucks.’ When the new chief (Middleton) came in, he said, ‘Yes, we would be very receptive to taking those trucks’.”
Wood added, “The city had donated a couple of police cruisers to Goshen Valley and Carters Valley (VFDs), and donated some equipment to Carters Valley. We want to help our surrounding departments when we can, and the board graciously approved those donations.”
On Saturday morning, Middleton and some of his officers will meet Wood and Deal at Church Hill City Hall for a title exchange ceremony, after which Clinch will take their new trucks home.
Middleton noted that the department’s mechanic, Brad Smith, was called out of town for work and will miss Saturday’s ceremony, but he wanted to express his gratitude to Deal, Wood and the BMA for the donations.
Assistant Chief Wesley Lawson also wanted to express his gratitude, Middleton added.
“When you think about going out there and serving the public, you put their needs first, and this is going to enable us to continue doing that,” Middleton said. “We’re so thankful as a department. We want to thank Mayor Deal and Chief Woods, because without them I’d still be down two trucks and shorthanded.”