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STANTONSBURG — Floodwaters are known to rise here in severe storms and hurricanes, with some residents becoming trapped in their homes.
“It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when,” said Mayor William Edmundson.
This week, the Stantonsburg-Moyton Volunteer Fire Department accepted delivery of a large military surplus vehicle that will be able to rescue residents when floods cut them off from their community.
The delivery of the six-wheel Stewart and Stevenson U.S. Army deuce-and-a-half was coordinated by the North Carolina Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Defense.
“In our area on heavy rains and of course hurricanes, we have a lot of flooding here,” said Stantonsburg-Moyton Fire Chief William McMurray. “Basically we are going to fit this truck to do water evacuation for all these houses and the people of our community.”
McMurray said the truck, which will be the largest in the department’s seven-truck fleet, will be dressed out to perform some wildland fire suppression, but its main objective will be use in water evacuations.
The delivery comes just a week and a half after the Stantonsburg Police Department took delivery of a deuce-and-a-quarter Army surplus vehicle that will be converted for similar water rescue purposes.
“We are going to piggyback off the fire department. What they do we are going to follow,” said Stantonsburg Police Chief Orlando Rosario.
Edmundson, who sat in the driver’s seat of the big truck, said he was excited about both acquisitions.
“I think it’s going to be a benefit and a comfort, a way to prepare for the events that have happened before where we were surrounded by high water and had calls of people that were in distress,” Edmundson said. “You have a helpless feeling when you don’t have anything that can navigate and take care of water evacuations. It is going to be a huge comfort to have something available for some things like that.”
Edmundson said he’s looking forward to having security that the two departments will be able to help people when the time comes.
McMurray said everybody in the fire department is looking forward to seeing what can be done with the truck and also letting the community see it.
“The first thing we will have to do is go in there and grease it, totally change all of the fluids. The brakes are in great shape. The tires are in great shape,” McMurray said. “We’re getting a real great looking truck.”
“We are going to clean it up ourselves and send it straight to the body shop and let them paint it,” McMurray said. “Right now we are going to paint it solid black and put all of the lettering in gold with a red stripe down it.”
The fire department’s truck, a 1998 Stewart and Stevenson valued at $128,000, has to be put into work within one year, according to Brandon Webb, N.C. Forest Service county ranger in Wilson County.
Webb helped organize the transfer of the federal surplus military equipment.
Without access to the surplus equipment, McMurray said the department would not be able to purchase such a vehicle.
“We do not have the funding to be able to do this right here,” McMurray said.
“We try to meet with the fire departments and tell them what we have available and what we can try to get for them,” Webb said. “They’ll put in a request of some things that they may need. Once that request is in, then we go into our system and find what is available and do our best to screen it, pick it out and go pick it up from whatever location it may be. It is a huge benefit to the community and to the citizens of the community and to the forest service.”