Donated firetruck becomes teaching tool at Manatee Technical College | From the Observer


Although a firetruck purchased in 2008 by Myakka City Fire Rescue is being retired, it is entering an important new chapter of its life.

The truck is being donated by East Manatee Fire Rescue, which merged with Myakka City Fire Rescue in 2021, to Manatee Technical College to be used in MTC’s Firefighter/EMT and Diesel Systems Technology programs.

“It’s an extraordinary donation for us,” said Jennifer Gilray, assistant director at MTC.

Gilray said the truck also could be used by MTC’s auto collision repair and auto logistics programs.

The first stop, though, will be the diesel program.

East Manatee Fire Rescue Chief Lee Whitehurst said the truck has entered a state known as “vapor lock.” The issue involves gas vaporizing too quickly, resulting in a loss of pressure. The truck has depreciated to a salvage value of

$66,887, Fire Commissioner Derek Foss said.

So MTC diesel program students must solve the vapor lock issue first.

“I look forward to the challenge,” said Adam Green, an instructor for the diesel program. “The students will get a unique perspective on operational equipment.”

Once MTC’s board of governors approves the donation, the truck will be moved to MTC’s State Road 70 campus from its current home at Station 11 in Myakka City.

Whitehurst said MTC has been important to the fire department, with up to half of the new hires having completed its Firefighter/EMT course. Whitehurst said he and Deputy Chief Paul Wren were former instructors at MTC.

Diesel program

The donation of the firetruck is an exciting development for MTC’s diesel program. Green said when the MTC diesel program began in October 2022, it had just one engine.

“In the short time that we’ve had here, we’ve accomplished a lot,” he said.

Bradenton’s Paige Godwin, an MTC student, services a Manatee County Search & Rescue vehicle.
Photo by Ian Swaby

The program has since taken on multiple projects, among them two high-water vehicles from Manatee Search and Rescue.

Bradenton’s Paige Godwin, a student in the diesel program, said she is sure they will get the fire engine running.

“Mr. Green is a great teacher,” she said. “He definitely is a bounty of knowledge and the county is lucky to have him.”

Green said once the firetruck arrives, he hopes to have it up and running within a few weeks. He said while each engine is a little different, the basics of a diesel engine remain the same.

“It shows that the theory and the practice that we do could apply uniformly to many different fields in commercial diesel mechanics,” he said.

The students are looking forward to learning about a firetrucks other systems as well.

Palmetto’s Ryan Lazarus, an MTC Student, services a Manatee County Search & Rescue vehicle.
Photo by Ian Swaby

“The firetruck has a lot of unique systems,” said Palmetto’s Ryan Lazarus, another student in the diesel program. “It has a lot of hydraulic systems, it has pump systems that go on it, and all of that is part of working on it.”

While the firetruck donated by East Manatee Fire Rescue will serve as a teaching aid and will be kept by MTC, Green said the program also repairs vehicles that are returned to the user. The two vehicles from Manatee Search and Rescue, he said, are set to return to that organization on March 10.

Howl said that is of great value to Manatee Search and Rescue, which is a nonprofit, as well as the students who worked on the trucks.

Green said once the donated firetruck is repaired, it will receive the highest level of maintenance. It will be treated as if it had to go out on calls.

“When a fireman flips that switch to get that pump going, to send water into that house to save that family, it has to work without question,” Green said. “I don’t accept failure.”

Firefighter/EMT program

Once the diesel program gets the donated firetruck running, and the diesel program students study it, the next stop will be to send the truck to the east campus so that students in the Firefighter/EMT program can learn from it.

Jay Bush, director of the Firefighter/EMT program, said the truck will open many new learning opportunities for the students. He said the students will get a close look how firefighters function when riding in such a truck or using it during a call.

The students will actually go to a live scene with the donated truck to learn more about their future profession.

“It will be cool to see them actually pulling up to the scene with a firetruck,” Bush said.

Bush said his program has had other important donations as well. MTC received a firetruck from Southern Manatee Fire Rescue and another from the City of Bradenton. St. Petersburg Fire Rescue donated an ambulance to the program.

MTC’s Firefighter/EMT program has worked to make sure its graduating students get a learning experience as close to the real thing as possible, for many of the graduates will go right to work after graduation.

Besides having more trucks and the ambulance, MTC also uses a fire tower for training. The tower has mechanisms to generate fire and smoke, as well as a liquefied petroleum gas field which exposes students to higher temperatures.

“If you want to be a firefighter, you have to get used to being hot in a lot of gear,” he said.

Bush said the donation of the firetruck is just one way East Manatee Fire Rescue has supported the program. The department recently donated 70 self-contained breathing apparatus tanks, which provide breathable air, as well as the frames the tanks rest on. The frames run $150 to $300 each.

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