On Monday, Oct. 4, leaders of the community and members of Huntington’s public safety units gathered together at City of Huntington Fire Station 1, also known as the Condit Street Fire Station, for the blessing of the city’s new fire truck and equipment.
The purchase was much-needed, as the truck the department needed to replace was purchased 30 years ago. According to a video released by the City of Huntington, which featured Fire Chief Tony Johnson, the 30-year-old truck was actually a reserve truck and “wasn’t capable” of handling the jobs that the department needed it to do. But, because of some engine trouble with some of the other fire trucks the department had on hand, the reserve truck was being used more and more.
According to Johnson, the services that the department offers have also changed quite a bit in the last 30 years. The department deals with a lot more incidents where they have to extract someone from a confined space and use specific rescue equipment that the older trucks couldn’t handle.
The new truck arrived in August and firefighters received three full days of training before the dedication and blessing. Training involved classroom learning, as well as hands-on learning with the truck itself. Johnson said that the truck is “set up similarly” to their other trucks, but that it has a different pump than they “are used to.”
The blessing ceremony is part of a long-standing tradition, and both Rev. Bobby Kemp and Rev. Tony Steinacker, local religious leaders in Huntington, were present to bless the new fire engine.
“Before we get started with the blessing, I just wanted to say, as a normal citizen of Huntington City, thank you for all you guys do,” Kemp said to the firefighters present at the event. “And for your families and the sacrifices that you make to protect and service your community. Genuinely, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for serving us so well and we hope that this helps you in that.”
Kemp then prayed for the truck, the equipment and those who would be using it and those who would be in need of the fire department’s help.
“May this truck be an instrument of peace, of healing and order, as you go with and before our firefighters,” Kemp said. “Father, protect, provide for and guide those who protect and serve us. We thank you for first responders that run toward crisis and we ask that you be their strength and their hope.”
Steinacker then shared the parable of the Good Samaritan, which can be
found in the book of Luke in the Holy Bible. In the parable, a man is injured and left in the road, and two men in a row come across him and leave him there. But the third man, a Samaritan, helped the injured man, fixed up his wounds and took him to safety to heal. At the end, Jesus instructs those listening to the parable to be like the Samaritan.
After sharing the parable, he also shared the story of why oil is placed upon the truck. He explained that, just as oil was placed upon those in need of healing in Jewish, Islamic and Christian traditions, oil is placed upon the truck and the Maltese Cross, a symbol of healing. According to Steinacker, the Maltese Cross was created by the Knights of Malta, a medieval order dedicated to bringing healing on the battlefield. Over the centuries, the Maltese Cross evolved into a symbol of healing and service. Steinacker then prayed over the truck.
“May all firefighters who are called to service in this cab be brought under your protection,” Steinacker said. “God of compassion, give them the confidence they need in difficult situations, ground them in awareness of their special calling and help them to leave behind differences and focus on teamwork, integrity and concern for the suffering.”
After he was finished speaking, Steinacker blessed the new truck with holy water, and Johnson invited everyone present to participate in the second tradition of the day, which is the push-in ritual.
According to Johnson, the tradition dates back to the late 1800s. In those days, fire departments had to rely on horses to pull wagons with the necessary firefighting equipment, and because the horses wouldn’t back the equipment into the station after a fire run, the firefighters had to push the wagons in themselves.
The ritual marked the end of the ceremony. The truck will now be available for the department to use and will enable them to have the necessary range of equipment to serve and protect the city of Huntington.