LACONIA — City firefighters turned out in their dress blues yesterday to honor a venerable tradition by blessing the newest truck in the fleet and celebrating the most revered member of the department, Captain Bob Landry, in whose name the engine was dedicated.
Taken by surprise, Landry, who served with the department for nearly a quarter of a century, was speechless and tearful, but managed "I thank you. It's a great honor. Who the hell would have thought." Later he quipped "every blind old squirrel finds a nut once in a while."
Presenting the award Captain Chris Shipp said that Landry has "lived the fire service," displaying qualities of leadership, levels of skill and dedication to duty for others to emulate. "The worse fire imaginable, he'd have your back," he remarked, "and he'd also have your back at the local pub." Shipp said that Landry has shared his knowledge and experience with every member of the department, all of whom are better firefighters for it.
Like Landry, the new engine, blessed with a prayer and holy water by Father Marc Drouin of St. Andre Bessette Parish, is a first-to-the-scene engine, carrying 1,000 gallons of water and armed with a pump rated at 1,500 gallons per minute. Landry explained that in densely populated areas where hydrants are plentiful trucks with a capacity of 500 gallons are commonplace, but double the capacity is needed to respond to structure fires in the rural reaches of the city where hydrants are sparse.
The engine was built to some 220 pages of specifications prepared by a committee led by Shipp and including Lieutenant Jay Ellingson and firefighters Kyle Joseph, Chris Beaudoin and Rick Hewlett, by E-One of Ocala, Florida, the same company that built the department's ladder truck. Landry said that the chassis and body was assembled in Florida and the truck equipped and fitted in Buffalo, New York.
"It drives like a Cadillac," Landry said. "Quient, smooth and powerful." He said that since it was put into service last week it has been to three fires and 20 calls as well as washed three times just yesterday. "It's hard to keep up with this weather," he said.
Opening the ceremony, Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that with one firefighter at the wheel, others pushed the new engine into Central Station, following a tradition that dates to 18th century, when the horses that drew the apparatus had no reverse gear. He expressed the appreciation of the department to the City Council for investing $422,000 in the new engine, which he said together with great personnel, great training and great equipment it has will help the Laconia Fire Department reach its goal "to be the best fire department there is."