Federal money paid for 90 percent of the new truck.

STONEHAM – For the first time in its 33-year history the Stoneham Fire Department has a new, shiny-red fire engine, sparkling with chrome.

Since its delivery a few days ago, Fire Chief Albert Fox said the 20-plus volunteer crew has been spending time getting familiar with the truck. Admiring and enjoying it, too. “They’re pleased as punch,” he said.

The 2004 Freightliner E1 pumper is a production line truck manufactured in Florida, Fox said. It came fully equipped – hoses, nozzles, ladders, axes – and, yes, bells and whistles.

The air-conditioned, three-person cab is not just a luxury for the firefighters, Fox explained, but another safety measure mandated by the National Fire Protection Association. It’s a place to treat heat exhaustion. “Put the person in the cab and turn the AC to high,” he said.

It’s all computerized, fairly simple, he said, but everything is push button and that means firefighters have to learn which buttons to push. The diesel-powered engine doesn’t seem to be too hard on gas, Fox said.

“It’s nice to know we have something new and dependable; one less thing to worry about when an alarm comes in,” he said. Stoneham has a mutual aid agreement with 14 towns. The trucks they’ve been using are 36 or 37 years old.

One of the organizers of Stoneham’s first fire department, Fox has been chief for 30 years, with brother Peter Fox and Michael McAllister acting as assistants. Mary Fox goes to most fires and handles the radio. Fox smiled when he described their first firetruck.

“It was a donated, second-hand oil truck from Massachusetts. We put a pump on the front and used it four or five years. Then we got a ’48 Ford firetruck, small.”

The new truck is replacing a makeshift pumper they made by putting a body from one onto the chassis of another. “That made it a 77-59,” he said.

They also have a federal surplus 1966 International and a 1967 Mac on loan, he said, along with a 1976 Ford tank truck and a 1982 Chevrolet pickup “4 by 4” for fighting forest fires.

Federal Emergency Management Agency money provided 90 percent of the $149,500 cost of the truck.

“This is the third year we’ve applied for the grant, he said, and this year we got lucky. We had to come up with $14,950, but we’ve been accumulating it over the years, setting money aside for a newer truck, hoping this would work out but never expecting it,” Fox said.

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