Members of the Mexico Fire Department stand next to their side-by-side rescue vehicle while holding a $2,500 grant from the Walmart Foundation to buy tracks for winter use. From left are firefighter Matthew Desroches, Capt. Allen Chartier, Capt. Ben Sarle and Lt. Jamee Theriault. Seated behind them is Chartier’s son, Carson. Rumford Falls Times photo by Bruce Farrin

MEXICO — The Fire Department has used its ATV on rescues and forest fires but not in the winter because it doesn’t have tracks.

Firefighters hope to change that before the start of winter.

An effort has begun to raise $6,500 for tracks. Firefighters are about halfway toward that goal, thanks to a $2,500 community grant presented Saturday by Mexico Walmart Manager Matt Packard and employees from the Walmart Foundation.

Capt. Ben Sarle said the Polaris Ranger 6X6 side by side has not been used for snowmobile accidents or injured skiers.

“We don’t have any snowmobiles for the rescue sled to tow behind, so we’ve always relied on everyone’s personal machines,” firefighter Matt Desroches added.

He said they would eventually like to buy a rescue toboggan that’s enclosed.

The vehicle has other equipment, including a rescue toboggan and a forest fire unit with a pump, tank and foam.

Capt. Allen Chartier said that last winter, over the course of a week, they had two snowmobile accidents, responding with two privately owned side-by-side vehicles with tracks to help.

“What if that wasn’t available?” he asked. “So we’d like to have something that we could have in the River Valley that could get used all around.”

The department’s all-terrain vehicle is the only one available to local fire departments and has been used around the River Valley.

“Right now, we rely a lot on volunteers to bring their own snowmobiles and their own side-by-sides, but this will be a tool available that has tracks on it that anyone can hook (a trailer) on it and go,” Sarle said.

Lt. Jamee Theriault said it’s not only fire departments that ask for this vehicle. There has been an occasion where police asked for it for a welfare check on a resident.

Chartier brought up another winter call. “It was a guy living on top of a mountain. He didn’t plow his driveway and nobody had seen him. He lives in Rumford, so (police) called us.”

Desroches said, “Recreation has grown huge in this area. When you look at the roads, they’re all ATV access. And snowmobiling is still huge when we have a good winter. We need the tracks to benefit the entire area.”

Firefighters are hopeful they can raise the money and get the tracks installed before winter.

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