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The new tanker truck holds up to 3,000 gallons of water and can pump 750 gallons per minute.

Bluffton has new fire truck

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Bluffton Fire and Rescue has a brand new truck after winning a FEMA grant.

Fire Chief Ken Theisen said the new tanker truck has a 350 horsepower engine, the tank holds up to 3,000 gallons of water and the pumper is capable of 750 gallons per minute.

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Another advantage of the new truck is that while older tanker pumpers have to be parked before use, this one can "pump and roll," making it helpful for situations such as following a grass fire along a ditch.

The truck, built by Midwest Fire in Luverne, Minn., is up to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards.

The total grant was for $224,500, of which the federal share was $213,275 (95 percent). The local government match was $11,225

(5 percent).

The truck was received May 4, after the grant was awarded fall 2011. It has already been in several summer parades around the area.

Jason Hotakainen, Bluffton fire department secretary, said they decided they needed a truck that was safer for firefighters and able to haul more water.

It was also important for mutual aid with the fire departments in Wadena, Sebeka, New York Mills and Deer Creek, as well as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The grant was written by Pat Conroy and George Jordan of Widseth Smith Nolting's Alexandria office.

Theisen and Hotakainen said the firm has successfully written other grants for them in the past.

Conroy said Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program from FEMA was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, with the importance of fire departments and other responding agencies in the public mind.

Bluffton was among 10,000 applicants across the United States applying for the grants, and among 2,000 to 3,000 scoring well enough to receive their requests.

Conroy said Bluffton also received another grant with other East Otter Tail County departments worth around $50-60,000 for communications gear.

Conroy said Theisen and the firefighters on Bluffton's roster have demonstrated how small rural fire departments can put their resources to good use, and Widseth Smith Nolting is proud to have worked with them.

While Wadena County has been hit by large wildfires this year, it has been less dramatic for Bluffton.

"It's been a quiet year for us," Hotakainen said.

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