News-Sun Staff Writer
Springfield Assistant Fire Chief Michael Doan cannot recall a single time he's been thankful for Box 27. He recalls hundreds.
"They are pretty much vital to all that we do," Doan said of Springfield's all-volunteer fire department. "If they were to disappear, it would leave us with a definite functional handicap."
Named after street-corner fire boxes popular in the 1900s, Box 27 has provided support to area fire personnel since 1935. Equipped with a fire truck and a support vehicle, the 18 volunteers are on the scene of every fire, water rescue and, if needed by police, crime scenes.
This week Box 27 expects the delivery of its newly-purchased support truck that will replace a 35-year-old step van that, according to Box 27 Chief Ben McKinnon, "is just tired."
"We took it out of service a year ago," McKinnon said.
Box 27 used savings from previous fundraisers to pay $35,000 of the $75,000 needed to purchase and equip the new truck. It borrowed the balance and are now on a fundraising campaign.
The Box 27 trucks can refill air tanks, which is a life-saver to firefighters and rescue divers and its volunteers provide hydration for firefighters.
Volunteers provide dry socks and gloves in the winter and wet towels in the summer. Their vehicles' search lights help with additional lighting.
By refilling air tanks, fire personnel can immediately respond to a second fire without having to go back to the station, said Springfield Assistant Fire Chief Nick Heimlich.
The new support van will be air-conditioned, have additional search lights, generators and the capability of refilling air tanks.
Other than fuel and vehicle maintenance, which is taken care of by the city of Springfield, taxpayers pay nothing for the service, Box 27 member John Finnegan said.
Each volunteer pays $80 in annual dues "for the privilege to abuse ourselves" by responding all hours of the day and night and in all kinds of weather conditions, he said, and stay on the scene for hours to provide light for fire investigators.
Heimlich relies on the team to illuminate a burned structure during his investigations. He also relies on their moral support.
"The first thing I see are the smiling faces with 'how are you doing?'" Heimlich said. "They provide that human side — a friendly face."