Scenes from Lowell: Fire Department Dedicates New Engine

Fire Chief Shannon Witherell (l) with former Fire Chief Frank Martin (r).

A crowd gathered at the fire station on Saturday afternoon as the Lowell Area Fire Department installed its newest engine.

Representatives from the three municipalities that make up the Fire and Emergency Services Authority — the City of Lowell, Lowell Charter Township and Vergennes Township — were present. Also on hand was former Fire Chief Frank Martin, to whom the new truck was being dedicated.

Frank Martin (second from left) shown alongside other former fire chiefs

Martin joined the Lowell Fire Department in January 1971 and became the department’s ninth fire chief in 1988. His tenure lasted until 2016, and among other things, he oversaw the relocation of the fire department from City Hall to its current location.

During his 45 years with the department, he served with “honor, integrity and commitment to the community,” current Fire Chief Shannon Witherell said.

To start off Saturday’s ceremony, the Lowell Area Fire Department Honor Guard processed in and presented the colors.

Then, Witherell gave some brief history on the push-in ceremony that was about to take place.

It’s a tradition that dates back to the days of horse-drawn fire engines. Since horses could not easily back equipment into stations, firefighters would push the engines in themselves.

Today, many fire departments have push-in ceremonies whenever a new vehicle is put into service.

Despite its 70,000 pound weight, members of the department had no trouble pushing the new truck into place.

Witherell noted that it was a three-year process to get the new truck, and it had a total cost of $792,000, including all equipment. Five bids were received and hundreds of pages of documentation reviewed before Spartan Fire Chassis in Charlotte was selected to build the truck. Spencer Manufacturing in South Haven provided apparatus.

Multiple groups helped make the truck possible, financially:

  • Kent County Fire Commission: $202,000
  • Lowell Area Community Fund: $115,000
  • City of Lowell, Lowell Charter Township and Vergennes Township: $475,000

After the engine was pushed in, Witherell spoke about Martin’s contributions to the department and unveiled a plaque on the vehicle which dedicated it to the former Fire Chief.

“I was really surprised,” Martin told Lowell’s First Look after the ceremony. He said he didn’t think a truck had previously been dedicated to a former chief, adding: “I’m just thrilled with it.”

At the end of the ceremony, Witherell radioed into dispatch from Lowell Engine 1, and dispatch responded that as of 16:13, Lowell Engine 1 was entered into service.

After the conclusion of the ceremony, a line of people made their way to Martin to say hello and express their congratulations.

People were invited to take a closer look at the truck and its equipment. Cake and refreshments were also served.

The many children in attendance took turns looking around the interior of the fire truck and sitting in the driver’s seat.

The engine is expected to have a 20-year lifespan, and during that time, it will not only respond to fires and accidents, but also participate in parades, educational events and community activities.

“This truck isn’t just part of the department,” Witherell said. “It is part of the community.”

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