Athol Fire Department gets funding for new brush truck


For The Athol Daily News
Published: 9/9/2022 1:45:00 PM
Modified: 9/9/2022 1:44:39 PM

ATHOL — In 1968, Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace were campaigning to become president of the United States. Civil unrest rocked the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the nation reeled from the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” was the number-one song for the year. Nineteen-sixty-eight also marked the last time the town of Athol purchased a new brush truck for its fire department. Now, 54 years later, the AFD will finally get the funds it needs to replace the aging vehicle.

Athol Fire Chief Joseph Guarnera announced Tuesday, Sept. 6, that his department had received an Assistance to Firefighters Grant of nearly $283,000. The AFG program is overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Guarnera told the Athol Daily News, “Brush trucks come in a couple of different classes. This class of brush truck is made specifically to work in forests and that type of terrain, where you’re going over rocks and stumps and un-level ground. That’s something we do not have at this point. Well, we do have one, but it’s 54 years old and that’s the one we’re replacing. It’s able to carry equipment as well as a small amount of water.

“An engine would not be able to go into the forest or the woods, or even through deep muddy areas, whereas a brush truck can. It has a higher ground clearance, better tires that are equipped for rough and muddy terrain. And right now, we don’t have a true brush truck, other than the one that’s 54 years old.

“We have another one that we use for relay pumping at brush fires, but it’s just a basic pickup truck with a skid unit on the back, which is not a true brush truck. It can’t get into those areas just because of the way that it’s built.”

Regarding the more-than five-decade-old vehicle, Guarnera said, “We’ve used it right up to the present. It’s very old and we just hope it starts. When it gets there, it does its job, but it’s definitely not compliant. The abilities of the truck do not meet our needs at this point.”

The chief also said a new truck provides better safety for his firefighters.

“Think of yourself as having a 54-year-old vehicle,” he said. “And when it breaks down, it costs twice the amount of money to fix it. A truck goes bad after a certain amount of time. It’s hauling a lot of equipment and it just breaks down just naturally.

“Even if it’s taken care of, which it was — that’s how we got 54 years out of it — it comes to a point and, just like any vehicle after a certain amount of time, it needs to be replaced.”

Guarnera said a brush truck is called out many times during the year, “And we’re now in District 8 and we’re part of the brush fire tactical force strike team. So, we’ll be using it even more.”

In addition to the vehicle itself, the AFG grant will provide funding for new equipment and a radio.

In a statement, Guarnera thanked Athol Town Manager Shaun Suhoski, the town’s Selectboard, and the Finance and Warrant Advisory Committee for supporting his grant application. He added thanks to state Sen. Anne Gobi and state Rep. Susannah Whipps for providing a letter of support for the grant.

Greg Vine can be reached at

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