By DEBRA PRESSEY – dpressey@news-gazette.com

SAVOY — It can climb a 50 percent grade, flatten the standard chain-link fence surrounding an airport and accelerate from zero to 50 miles an hour in 17 seconds.

Introducing University of Illinois Willard Airport’s first new fire truck in more than 19 years — a 2023 Oshkosh Striker — purchased courtesy of the Federal Aviation Administration, which picked up 100 percent of the approximately $700,000 tab.

It’s the airport’s second Striker, with a 2003 model now serving as the backup, according to John Cumbee, the airport’s fire marshal.

Two other fire trucks that served the airport, 1974 and 1976 models, have been retired, he said.

Cumbee said Willard was able to get one of the first 2023 Strikers made by the Oshkosh Corp., though “when we looked at the truck, they were building five for China.”

Some things to know about this new truck:

  • It’s about 18 feet wide, 36 feet long and 10 feet tall.
  • It’s got a powerful engine and is designed to reach a top speed of 70 mph but can actually hit 80 mph, Cumbee said.
  • It’s got a monster-sized track designed to keep it upright.
  • It shoots three different firefighting agents out the front — water, foam and dry powder.
  • It can be operated by a single person in the cab surrounded by the controls. The driving controls are on the left, while the firefighting controls are on the right, Cumbee said.

“One person can do everything,” he said.

Willard Airport has a fire and rescue staff of six, and there’s one staff member on duty at the station at all times, Cumbee said.

The new truck has already rolled on a call (a false alarm) since the airport acquired it in October, he said.

The fire and rescue staff runs dozens of medical calls and, on average, 20-30 aircraft emergency calls a year, though aircraft emergency responses generally are needed for stand-by because a warning light on a plane pops on, Cumbee said.

Cumbee, also assistant chief of the Cornbelt Fire Protection District, has been on staff at the airport for more than a decade and was made fire marshal this past March.

He can recall just one incident in the past decade in which there was smoke coming from a plane, and that turned out to be oil that had been spilled on the engine that got sucked into the air conditioning, he said.

Cumbee said the new truck gives the airport fire and rescue operation a completely modern fleet.

“We’re just really excited about it,” he said.

https://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/university-illinois/get-a-load-of-this-baby-new-fire-truck-at-willard-airport-built-to-handle/article_b2d1cb0e-b193-5572-84d2-acbd776f6e41.html