MARENGO – The Marengo Fire Protection District honored an old tradition Wednesday with a fire engine dedication ceremony.
The department bought the 2017 Pierce Enforcer engine for $460,000 and will replace Engine No. 1141 under the same number. The former No. 1141 will become a reserve engine – replacing a 1988 reserve engine – and be kept at Marengo Fire Station 2, at Routes 23 and 176.
“That engine has served its life and then some,” Capt. John Kimmel said. “So if this [new] one has to go in for maintenance, that one will come over and replace it for whatever period of time. It has some service life left in it.”
A fire engine “wash down” dedication ceremony consists of taking water from the old engine and washing the new one. Firefighters then push the new engine into the station.
The tradition comes from when fire service agencies had horse-drawn buggies instead of vehicles, and it has been carried on in departments nationwide since, Lt. Noel Gaines said.
“Everybody knows fire service is big on tradition,” he said. “The wipe down ceremony was such that when horses and buggies came back they would wash the horses down, and if they got a new piece of equipment, they would take the water from the old engine and sort of bless it.”
Pushing the vehicle into the station also is a nod to the 1800s, when firefighters would do the same for their drawn carriages and new equipment. The firehouse chaplain typically gives a blessing to the engine and a prayer to protect its crew as well, Gaines said.
“We try to set a precedence for [following] tradition,” he said. “We follow them from days’ past.”