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Norfolk’s Much-Decorated Fire Engine 90 is Retiring

NVFD to bid farewell to state champion pumper truck


By Sally Quale

Engine 90, Norfolk Volunteer Fire Department’s (NVFD) award-winning, 30-year-old pumper truck, is scheduled to be retired and replaced this fall. It has served well as a highly versatile pumper, whose smaller size and four-wheel drive enables it to reach fires at the 150 Norfolk locations that have limited access. Unfortunately, it no longer meets “the pump test,” the grading of the power pressure established by the National Fire Protection Agency upon which the fire truck’s insurance rate is based. NVFD volunteers are understandably a bit melancholic about this coming event, since it will involve their saying farewell to their beloved fire vehicle Connecticut State Champion.

The volunteers first learned about the annual state fire vehicle competitions in 2007 from the neighboring Riverton Fire Department. Intrigued and inspired to compete themselves, as many as twelve Norfolk volunteers banded together to spend most of their Saturdays over the next eight summers down at the firehouse

NVFD volunteers with the highly polished Engine 90.

, primping Engine 90 for entry in the many Connecticut town annual fire parades. The work was arduous: washing, scouring and polishing the old pumper to perfection. As one member reported with pride, “The diamond plate on Engine 90 was so shiny I could shave looking in it!” They added a few colorful works of art to 90’s visible undersides (one is the Abominable Snowman) and painted every functional pipe bright blue or white. Saturday evenings, the volunteers marched in uniform alongside their immaculate Engine 90 in the various Connecticut towns’ annual fire parades. Proof of their success? Today, all four walls of the Norfolk firehouse meeting room are lined with shelves filled with over 50 trophies won by Engine 90.

Each summer, Norfolk’s Engine 90 qualified to enter the most important Connecticut State fire parade, open to the fire departments of all 70 towns in Connecticut. The volunteers spent extra hours spiffing up their vehicle for these parades, achieving outstanding results eight years in a row, beginning in 2007. Engine 90 won the highest trophy in the show for “Best Apparatus” in the state of all types of all fire vehicles entered for maintenance and cleanliness in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014, and it won the second best trophy in the show for best commercial in the state of all Engine 90s entered for maintenance and cleanliness in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2013.

At the end of the 2014 season, with Engine 90 on top of the world and on the cusp of retirement,

their lives now filled more with job and family, the volunteers called an end to their project, grateful for the collegiality they had enjoyed over the years, and proud of their success.

The replacement for Champion Engine 90, due to arrive in September or October, is comparable to its predecessor but comes with additional tools and insurance-stipulated pumping power. It will not be put into service until all volunteers have received the required training on the use of its new equipment and the engine proves to be in satisfactory operation. Only then will the retired champion be sold, perhaps to a collector or a museum, or donated to a needy community.

The Norfolk Fire Department is composed entirely of volunteers, currently 24 men, eight women, and eight Explorers. Notably, it includes three members of one Norfolk family, one from each of three generations! Explorers (aged under 18 years) must complete the same training as adult volunteers, attend regular weekly drills and monthly meetings and undertake all duties responding to calls, except entering a burning structure. “We always need more volunteers,” reports veteran Jon Barbagallo, who welcomes a call from anyone interested in further information.

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