Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Co. celebrated the arrival of its newest fire truck with a traditional housing ceremony last week.

By custom, housing ceremonies involve firefighters pushing the truck into the station for the first time. However, that tradition has become mostly ceremonial because modern fire engines are too heavy to be pushed, Aetna spokesman John H. Farrell IV said.

After enjoying a barbecue dinner at Station 7 on Thorn Lane on May 6, Aetna members placed their hands on the front of Quint 7 as driver Gene Niland backed the 28-ton truck into the station.

The new truck is known as a “quint,” a name derived from its five functions: pump, water tank, fire hose, aerial ladder and ground ladders. It will give Aetna more flexibility when responding to fire calls, Chief Drew Bowerson said.

“With the number of volunteer firefighters who respond to alarms on the decline, Aetna needs apparatus that can function in multiple roles to best serve the community,” Bowerson said. “The new quint enables Aetna firefighters to fill whatever roles may be needed on the fire ground.”

He explained that there are three basic types of fire apparatus. Engine companies connect to fire hydrants and use hoses to extinguish the fire. Ladder companies raise ladders to windows and the roof to rescue any trapped occupants and to give firefighters another way out of the building. Rescue companies also search for victims and assist with securing the gas and electric utilities to the house.

With both a water pump and a 75-foot aerial ladder, the quint can act as either an engine company or a ladder company, depending on what is needed.

Bowerson said quints have been around for 15 or 20 years, but have been slow to catch on. Locally, Aetna joins fire departments in Middletown, Delaware City and Talleyville in adopting the quint.

“We’re just striving to provide better service to the community,” he said. “The quint helps us stay ahead of the curve.”

The new truck replaced Squirt 7, an engine topped with an articulating water nozzle. At 24 years old, Squirt 7 had reached the end of its useful lifespan, Bowerson said. Aetna purchased the quint for $800,000 from Wisconsin-based Pierce Manufacturing, Inc.

Last week’s ceremony also honored Niland, a longtime Aetna member who recently received the Jefferson Award for his service to the community. Niland joined Aetna in 1977 and was its oldest active EMT when he retired in 2014 at the age of 74.

“I’ve had a long life here,” Niland told the firefighters gathered at Station 7. “And it’s been a good one.”

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