From the Sag Harbor Fire Department, a Different Kind of Mutual Aid

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The brush truck that was outfitted by the Sag Harbor Fire Department volunteers and later sold to the Belgrade Fire Department in North Carolina at a low price. Photo courtesy Sag Harbor Fire Department
The brush truck that was outfitted by the Sag Harbor Fire Department volunteers and later sold to the Belgrade Fire Department in North Carolina at a low price. Photo courtesy Sag Harbor Fire Department

By Christine Sampson

If there’s one thing volunteer fire departments are known for doing, it is helping out other fire departments in need.

That’s exactly what the Sag Harbor Fire Department accomplished earlier this month when it sold a fire truck to a North Carolina fire department for a mere $350.

The Belgrade Volunteer Fire Department in Maysville, North Carolina, “owes the Sag Harbor Fire Department and the village a debt of gratitude in allowing us to purchase this truck,” said David McMahon, a former Sag Harbor volunteer and the secretary of Belgrade, the department that received the truck. “Thanks to them, we now have a force multiplier that will be serving our community for years to come and sets Belgrade apart from other departments.”

This particular truck, a 1952 GMC M-135, is a two-and-a-half ton civil defense vehicle that Sag Harbor acquired in 1983 from Southampton Town for $1. According to Sag Harbor Chief Bruce Schiavoni, the department’s own volunteers later outfitted it with a cage and a tank to be able to use it to fight brush fires.

“It was used in the wildfires back in the mid-90s and it has been used around here a bunch of times at various locations,” he said. “It’s nice that it went somewhere where a former member is a volunteer. It more than served its purpose for the community. I want to thank the members in years past who donated time and labor, and probably their own tools and materials, to keep it going the way that it did. We’re very grateful for the purpose it served.”

After Sag Harbor acquired a newer brush truck from the Shelter Island Fire Department in March, it no longer needed its 1952 truck, and it began the process of excessing it. Mr. McMahon learned of it through his father-in-law, Mike McAree, a Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps member, and his own father, John L. McMahon III.

Chief Schiavoni said Sag Harbor previously helped out the Belgrade Volunteer Fire Department several years ago by donating turnout gear when the department was in need.

David McMahon explained the truck will be vital to the Belgrade fleet. Its previous brush truck, he said, is under-powered with limited water capacity. He said the truck from Sag Harbor will distinguish Belgrade “as there are no trucks like it down in Onslow county, nothing even remotely close.”

“The Belgrade Fire Department is bordered by two national forests, the Croatan and the Hoffman, and normally relies on state forestry to handle the majority of its wildfires,” he said in an email to The Express. “In recent years, there have been multiple fires at the same time and when forestry has been on one side of the county, a small fire that could have been contained, if we had a truck that could reach the fire, has turned into a multi-acre fire that we have not been able to control. We plan to use the truck to help augment forestry, but also fill a need for a hurricane recovery vehicle.”

Mr. McMahon also said it has sentimental value.

“The truck is what volunteers stand for. Sag Harbor identified a shortfall in defending the community and could not find a truck suited for the task. So they made one,” he said. “By donating time and experience, they created from almost nothing a truck that could do the job they wanted. That is the tenacity and determination volunteers show.”

Even though it’s a 1952 model, he feels the truck has life left in it.

“I couldn’t stand the thought of an iconic truck like that going to the junk yard or being converted to a potato truck,” he said. Belgrade “has the perfect mission for it, and the volunteers to bring it to where it needs to be.”

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