Kecksburg firefighters donating 1989 fire engine to Dominican Republic

Paul Peirce, Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.
·3 min read

Apr. 10—Kecksburg firefighters are hoping to invoke the sense of wonder the community enjoyed more than 55 years ago, when a mysterious, metallic acorn-shaped object reportedly fell from the sky and brought worldwide attention to the tiny Mt. Pleasant Township village.

This time, they're hoping to do it with a donated fire truck.

The village's used 1989 Ford 8000 Series pumper will be loaded up this weekend to be delivered by cargo ship to the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean nation lacking such lavish amenities.

"From what we've heard, most of the areas on the island are so poor they use old pickup trucks with water tanks in the beds, equipped with old pumps, to fight fires. And the firefighters there have no bunker gear either," said Kecksburg Volunteer Fire Department Chief Adam Krozel.

"We're so fortunate with the community support we've received here, we wanted to do something nice to support someone who really needs it," Krozel said about the department's recent decision to donate the engine, which pumps 1,250 gallons per minute.

In addition to the truck, the department is including 2,300 feet of hose and old bunker gear with the donation. Other township departments including Calumet, Hecla, Norvelt, Trauger, and neighboring Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Department in Stahlstown and Waterford in Ligonier Township also are making donations, firefighter Ron Struble said.

The truck will depart the Kecksburg fire hall 1 p.m. Sunday and will likely be delivered to the island nation in May.

Local fire officials coordinated the donation through the Fire Department Relief Mission of Western Pennsylvania.

The organization was founded about five years ago by a Munhall firefighter who heard about the program while attending a firefighters training program in Ohio. President Mike Talerico, a Munhall firefighter, said Kecksburg's engine donation will be the organization's 13th to the island in the Caribbean.

"They are very thankful for the donations there ... they love the American-made equipment," Talerico said.

Collinsburg Volunteer Fire Department in Rostraver donated a truck in October.

Talerico drives the donated trucks to New Jersey, where they are loaded on to cargo ships. He and other Munhall firefighters usually accompany the trucks to island, where firefighters there are trained on the new gear and equipment.

Talerico films the event from start to finish, and provides the donor departments with the recordings.

Kecksburg's 1989 engine became available after the department purchased a used 1998 Spartan New Lexington Engine from Mt. Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department. The department's updated engine pumps 1,500 gallons per minute and has a 10-person cab versus the former five-person cab on the old engine.

It was placed into service in January.

"We can't afford to buy a brand new truck at $400,000 plus, and we were fortunate to be able to upgrade with this one after Mt. Pleasant bought a new truck," Struble said. "But there's nothing wrong with this one. It's inspected and state certified, but we just didn't have a need for it any longer."

Struble said the department initially attempted to sell the rig, but had no offers. Then firefighters heard about the donation program.

"We brought it to our members at a meeting and we decided to pass our fortune forward and do something to help an area that really needs it," Krozel said.

Neither Krozel nor Struble have any idea whether any residents of the island will have heard about Kecksburg's legendary UFO incident from Dec. 9, 1965, when some locals claim a large, metallic, acorn-shaped object supposedly streaked through the sky before plummeting into a patch of woods.

For more than a decade, the fire department has held fundraisers commemorating the anniversary of the incident.

Former fire chief Struble, who chairs the annual UFO festival, is sending UFO swag — including coffee mugs and t-shirts — along with the fire engine.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, ppeirce@triblive.com or via Twitter .