FBFD welcomes new tanker in traditional style

Fort Bliss firefighters and emergency responders gather for remarks from FBFD Chief Roger Hancock at Station 5 at Fort Bliss Jan. 17. The East Bliss station gathered for a modest ceremony to welcome Engine 51, the installation’s newest, to the fleet. Photos by David Poe, Fort Bliss Garrison Public Affairs.

Fort Bliss firefighters and emergency responders gather for remarks from FBFD Chief Roger Hancock at Station 5 at Fort Bliss Jan. 17. The East Bliss station gathered for a modest ceremony to welcome Engine 51, the installation’s newest, to the fleet. Photos by David Poe, Fort Bliss Garrison Public Affairs.

By David Poe, Fort Bliss Garrison Public Affairs:

(El Paso, Texas, Jan. 25, 2018)

As part of a custom that draws back to the days of horse-drawn firefighting, traditionally, the fire service welcomes new pumpers with ceremonies called “push-ins.” Fort Bliss Fire Department personnel celebrated a nod to the past when they “pushed” their newest engine during a ceremony at Station 5 on East Fort Bliss Jan. 17.   

The modest ceremony, a first for the FBFD, welcomed Engine 51 to the fleet. The Rosenbauer Commander, a 767-gallon tanker, is now one of a dozen engines deployed across six stations here. Each has a “frontline” engine comparable to Station 5’s new addition, according to FBFD Chief Roger Hancock.

FBFD Capt. Francisco Loya, an FBFD operations captain, does the honors of wetting Engine 51 at Fort Bliss Jan. 17. Loya and FBFD personnel gathered to mark the arrival of their newest pumper truck with a traditional “push-in” ceremony, which dates back to the time of the horse-drawn fire service.

In the 19th Century and into the 20th Century, pumper horses commissioned into duty, along with their new tankers, were washed with water carried by the retiring horse team. Firefighters would make the final “push-in” for the tanker because the horses usually couldn’t back up while connected to the apparatus. The custom quickly became a tradition as firefighters from neighboring districts, elected officials, community leaders and the public were typically invited to push-ins.

Engine 51 has a 66-gallon firefighting foam tank and can pump up to 1,500 gallons per minute. The tanker sports an ergonomically efficient cabin with amenities such as a single-bonded front windshield for extended visibility, an independent air suspension system for a more comfortable ride and a corrosion-controlled frame for extended road life.

Team Bliss emergency responders gather for a photo with Engine 51. Lt. Col. Sharon Lyght, top, center-right, the Fort Bliss Directorate of Emergency Services commander, and FBFD Chief Roger Hancock, bottom right, joined emergency personnel for the ceremony.

Since there was no retiring apparatus Jan. 17, Station 5 firefighters and personnel, joined by Lt. Col. Sharon Lyght, the 93rd Military Police Battalion commander who also heads the Fort Bliss Directorate of Emergency Services, wetted and wiped down Engine 51 together before pushing it into the garage and into active service. Lyght, who oversees the FBFD as the DES commander, said she was proud to join the group for a welcome steeped in tradition.

“If there’s anything I love, it’s celebrating lineage and history, whether it be a unit or an agency,” Lyght said. “So being invited to take part in the history of the Fort Bliss Fire Department gives me great pride. I learned something new today – I love it.”

Hancock said symbolic “push-ins” will continue to represent the professional and material responsibilities involved with supporting public safety at Fort Bliss.

“Keeping traditions alive gives us rekindled interest in the history of our fire service and a sense of pride in our organization,” he said. “When we get a new apparatus, we’re showing the taxpayers that we’ve received it and we’re going to take care of it. The significance of the ceremony lets our surrounding community know that an investment has been made for the public safety of the Soldiers and citizens in that area.”