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Moving toward contemporary times, the Knollwood Volunteer Fire Department and its equipment have evolved dramatically.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the federal government established Homeland Security funding. Liberally giving money away to any emergency agency willing to do the paperwork, the government appropriated millions of dollars to volunteer fire departments.
Not having jumped on the bandwagon for federal funding in 2002, the Knollwood Volunteer Fire Department in 2005 applied for a grant from Homeland Security. Because of the growing commercial districts of Knollwood, a grant to purchase an aerial apparatus was approved, and in 2005 the Knollwood Volunteer Fire Department purchased its first aerial ladder truck.
The department was able to obtain the 2003 E-One 75-foot ladder truck through the mistake of another department. The truck was originally purchased by a rural fire department through a Homeland Security grant that was found to have been improperly secured. Upon a follow-up investigation by the federal government, it was determined the original rural fire department had filed the grant with inaccurate information. The commercial structures in that district that Homeland Security originally deemed essential for the funding of a new ladder truck were in reality grain silos. Once the inaccurate application came to light, the rural department was forced by the federal government to sell the ladder truck, allowing the Knollwood Volunteer Fire Department to purchase it.
In 2006, another new engine was added to the rapidly growing fleet. Sister to the ladder truck, the new-to-Knollwood 2005 E-One pumper engine was purchased from a drag racing strip. This engine was equipped with a 1,000-gallon tank and a 2,000-gallon-per-minute pump, among the largest fire pumps available on standard fire apparatus.
Although well designed by a national fire apparatus manufacturer, this particular fire engine was plagued with problems. Commonly shutting itself off on its way to an emergency or having computer malfunctions prohibiting it from pumping water, the engine was soon deemed a lemon. It wasn’t long before it was traded for the most current engine Knollwood has, the new 2007 E-One pumper.
Early in its history, KFD was shaped by its equipment and defined by its lone engine and evolving department. The early Knollwood Fire Department was simple yet functional. Now a growing commercial district and increased mutual aid responses have continued to shape the department’s fire apparatus. Recently acquiring a ladder truck and new pumper, this volunteer department has been blessed with outstanding equipment.
However, the growing inventory yields added responsibility and pressure. The national average for annual calls is 150, yet Knollwood runs an annual average of 500-plus calls and the number of emergency calls continues to increase every year. The growing demand on the volunteer fire department as the population urbanizes limits the functionality of regular volunteers. Increased pressure for schooling and formal training by the community can create limits on the numbers of individuals willing to participate. It is the camaraderie and sense of community that helps keep the department strong and viable.
The apparatus of a fire department is its bread and butter; every emergency call is like a parade, displaying the engine and its crew. Residents look to see neighbors on the rig, and family members peer from passing cars searching for fathers and sons. Being a member of a volunteer department becomes a great pride to family. A fire engine can define a department as much as its station can.