A burning desire to prevent fires…

A photo posted on the Clovis Fire Department’s web page shows one of those old “fire horse” “wagons that used a steam engine to power the pump that sprayed water on fires during the city’s early years.

Old Clovis Fire Department “fire wagon,” probably late 1800s or early 1900s. From department website.

You’ve probably seen pictures of one of these wagons in operation, spewing black smoke from an on-board boiler while careening down a street to douse a fire. A quick check on the Internet shows they were used for about 60 years, from the late 1860s to the 1920s. I always thought these contraptions would be a fire hazard themselves if they tipped over during a mad dash to a fire.

But just because the Clovis Fire Department doesn’t use these machines any more doesn’t mean that they still can’t start fires with a fire truck.

A story in the April 22, 2023 edition of the Albuquerque Journal says a Clovis Fire Department Truck was responsible for sparking “multiple fires” as it was driven from the airport to the main fire station office for “hose testing.”

It appears that one of the vehicle’s “outrigger plates” — used to stablize the truck while in operation — was scraping along the highway on its route, generating sparks which touched off brush fires adjacent to the road. The outrigger plate apparently malfunctioned and dropped to the pavement while the truck was moving.

“The operator of the fire truck was not aware of the equipment failure and as a result, continued down the road causing multiple fires,” a department spokesman said.

Fires started by the sparks moved quickly in the springtime winds and threatened nearby horse stables, barns and homes. By the time the fires were extinguished with the help of several other fire department units, three unoccupied buildings had been scorched.

The Clovis Fire Department’s website says its mission is to: “Prevent Harm, be Professional, use Resources Wisely.” I think in this incident, they failed pretty badly on all of those goals.

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