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‘Wet-down’ christens new Palos Fire vehicles

 

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Firefighter/paramedic Tom O’Connor gives a strong spray of water to a new fire truck and ambulance at a “wet-down” ceremony held last Saturday at Palos Fire Protection District headquarters, 8815 W. 123rd St., Palos Park.

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Photos by Joan Hadac

Palos Heights Alderman Jerry McGovern (4th Ward) pauses for a photo with his grandsons, Aidan, 7, and Gavin, 5 just before the start of the ceremony.

The ceremony was steeped in tradition and was a throwback to more than a century ago, when horse-drawn fire rigs were hosed down to wash away road dirt, grit, cinders and more that accumulated on fire runs.

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After the new rigs were wiped dry with commemorative towels, Palos Fire Protection District stalwarts push the new truck back into its stall, in another nod to yesteryear. Firefighters’ lore has it that the water used to hose down the new vehicles, which came from the pumper being retired from service, provides the new vehicles with good luck and helps ward off gremlins.

The new truck, along with a new ambulance, was paid for with about $980,000 in funds from a tax increase approved by voters in 2012.

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Palos Fire District administrative assistant Marianne DeHaan smiles as her grandson, Ralphie Stecker, 4, watches the events unfold. When the rigs were sprayed with water from a fire hose, Ralphie was heard to exclaim that the ceremony was “just like a baptism.”

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While the ritual had its serious side, its mood was generally celebratory. Families of Palos Fire staff, as well as other members of the community, joined in, including firefighter/paramedic Eric Queen, his wife, Nicole, and daughters Isabella, 3, and Adalyn, seven months.

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Firefighter/paramedic Aaron Rutter, flanked by an honor guard, served as master of ceremonies and explained the historical significance of the event. Other speakers included PFPD Chief Patrick Gericke, Board of Trustees President Kevin C. McCurrie, and Gerry Brown, a former PFPD paramedic who delivered an invocation.

Gericke credited Rutter and the honor guard with the idea for staging the kind of old-school ceremony that “is not seen much with today’s modern fire apparatus, but this is a big deal for our district and residents.”

The new fire truck replaces one that was damaged in an electrical fire last November. Gericke thanked his counterparts at the Orland Fire Protection District for lending a truck to the PFPD for the past several months.

 

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