A brand new Engine #1 is officially in service at Central Emergency Services (CES) in Soldotna. The official engine dedication, traditionally known as the "Wet Down and Push In" ceremony, happened under smoke laden skies last week at CES in Soldotna. The rare dedication allowed public officials and community members to see the newest in fire fighting apparatus and technology. "This was a first for CES to dedicate a new piece of apparatus, and was also an opportunity for us to thank the taxpayers of this community for providing us with great life-saving and fire fighting equipment," said CES Chief Chris Mokracek. As the old engine #1 was decommissioned ("Pushed Out" to make room for the new engine) there was an air of nostalgia among the fire fighters whom the engine had served well for the past 23 years. "The old Engine #1 served us well running over a hundred-plus calls a year, tallying more than 2,200 responses. It'll go out to auction now and hopefully will continue to serve other communities in the future," said Mokracek.
Soldotna City Mayor Peter Micciche was present for the dedication and told those assembled, "I have worked with fire fighters all over the country in my professional career, and the reality is that we have the finest of the finest here on the Kenai Peninsula. If we are going to ask them to risk their lives for our families and community, than we owe them the very best equipment to accomplish their tasks. The new number 1 is a beautiful machine and hopefully it'll never have to be used, but the reality is that when it is needed it'll serve our responders better than ever before," said Micciche. The approximate price tag of the new engine was $480,000. "We're very thrifty here in Soldotna, there are some departments that have a seven year fleet replacement program for their equipment and that certainly is not the case here, given the 23-some years of service from the former engine #1. But as engines age, they require costly maintenance, repairs and upgrades, and it was time for the new engine and an economically sound decision," added Micciche.
The dedication ceremony included a "Blessing of the Engine" when CES Chaplain Keith Randall invited all present to lay hands on the engine and then led in a prayer for safety and blessing for all those called to use the new engine #1. The blessing was followed by the New Engine Wet Down which is a tradition that dates back to horse drawn pumper trucks when the new truck would be washed with water carried by the old truck and then pushed into its storage bay to await service when needed. At the CES dedication children of fire fighters were invited to share in the Wet Down and Push In with on-duty CES personnel. Then came the official 911 tone out (retirement) of the old Engine #1 and the announcement that the new Engine #1 was in its bay and ready for service. "The Members of Central Emergency Services want to thank the citizens, elected officials and appointed leaders for their support. Without you we could not provide the quality service you see every day. The new Engine #1 has greater capacity for serving both the city and rural community," concluded Chief Mokracek.
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