At the May 19, 2021 Board of County Commissioners meeting, Gulf County Emergency Management Director Matt Herring secured the board’s approval to send out a special bid for the Dalkeith Volunteer Fire Department’s new brush truck.
It was a year later to the day when Tripp Barrier, Dalkeith’s fire chief, drove the new truck through the fire department’s giant red garage door.
The process for the new truck’s build was a little more complicated than normal, Herring said, since the type of truck needed is not on state contract, and some of the work had to be specially done.
But still, several years ago the build would only have taken six to eight months.
“With just the world we live in now, the length of time you have to wait for a new fire truck has doubled, sometimes tripled,” Herring said.
According to Barrier, it takes about a year for any fire department to receive a new truck these days.
“Fire trucks right now, any of them are a year plus now to have one built,” he said. “And then parts can be sometimes up to six months get repair parts.”
Fire departments around the country have reported similar shortages in equipment, as supply chain issues and increased labor and shipping costs have driven prices up and reduced supply of fire trucks, protective equipment and other essentials.
And with this spring bringing some of the county’s largest wildfires in recent memory, Barrier said that delays and equipment shortages have the potential to have serious real-world consequences.
“This has been an exceptional year,” said Barrier. “You know, that Bertha Swamp (Road) Fire – that was something we don’t see around here a lot.”
“But I’m not saying it can’t happen again.”
Just one week prior to the truck’s arrival, the Gulf County firefighters responded to a fire off of Jarrott Daniels Rd and County Road 386.
But with limited fire department resources and unfavorable weather conditions, they eventually called in the Florida Forest Service to help put out the 90 acre blaze.
Local fire departments respond to numerous outdoor fires, especially between March and June. The call in the Florida Forest Service if the fire has spread to be too large or conditions are such that the department can no longer battle the flames on their own.
But having proper equipment is essential to being able to keep the fires at bay.
“When it gets so dry, these grass fires up here go up quickly,” Barrier said. “We work as a team with forestry – we depend on them to help put these big fires out, and they depend on us to be the first ones on the scene – to get an eye on things and keep things under control until they can get out.”
“This was something that had to be done. It’s something that’s essential for the community.”
The fire chief said that now that the truck has arrived, the department will be able to focus more efforts on recruiting new members, which he says are desperately needed at Dalkeith and at fire departments throughout the county.
“People now don’t want to give any time up, but they don’t realize that this is something that is much needed,” Barrier said.