Fed funds road trip to get fire truck

Jason Forgette and Jake Lightfoot are college guys who decided to go on a road trip during the summer, with one major difference from other kids their age -- they had a government credit card.

Forgette and Lightfoot, both 26, work for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Nevada. Ducking between fire trucks in the yard, they told how the government flew them to Fairmount, Ind., James Dean's hometown, so these rebels with a cause could drive a newly acquired fire engine across the country and back to the Carson City Field Office last week.

Engine 3934 is replacing Engine 3944, which is going to Silver Springs complete with a key ceremony later this summer.

Britt Davis, 31, of Carson City is the engine captain.

"I'm assuming it's cheaper to fly guys out to drive it back than to bring it out on a lowboy trailer." He points out two other engines in the yard and explains they were acquired the same way. "But everyone who ever did it said it's a great experience and they'll never do it again."

He points to the old engine in a corner of the yard, Engine 3944, and explains that after a 12-year cycle, all fire engines get replaced. As for the new one, "it could be fighting fires this afternoon. A crew is on the way to staff it up."

The new S&S Wildland Ultra Xtreme is a wildland attack engine, designed for use by the BLM in tough Nevada terrain. This engine, 3934, is the original of the series. It's a 1992 International and, according to the guys who drove it, it holds more water than fuel.

"We stopped at 25 to 30 gas stations and people just stared at us," Lightfoot said.

The engine has a 75-gallon fuel tank and gets 4 to 5 miles per gallon. Good thing they had that government credit card.

The $170,000 Type-3 brush engine, which holds 845 gallons of water, will be stationed in Sparks during the summer, and back in Carson City for the winter.

Forgette and Lightfoot went through a tornado-spawning storm in Kansas in the truck, saw elk in the Rockies where there is still snow, and then "beautiful Nevada," according to the firefighters.

"We found out later that three (tornadoes) touched down in Graham County," said Forgette.

Food was fast, something like "14 burgers, 10 Sausage McMuffins and 30 Redbulls," according to Forgette and Lightfoot."There was no time to have good meals. Then check into a hotel turn on the Weather Channel and sleep for six hours and hit the road in the morning."

They traveled in 15-hour shifts and broke down once in 2,352 miles in Denver when a serpentine belt got eaten up.

All things considered, they would do it again.

"If it were on my own time I would have taken twice as long." Lightfoot said.

"If I did it again I would take another route and see some more country," Forgette said.




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