ELLSWORTH — A free fire truck that proved more hassle than help will be returned to the man who donated it following a vote by the City Council last week.
In January of 2016, Brian Hogan of Raymond offered to donate an all-wheel-drive, off-road vehicle known as a 6×6 or deuce and a half (a nickname that derives from its two-and-a-half-ton capacity). Hogan had converted the surplus Army vehicle, believed to have been made in the 1970s, into a truck for fighting forest fires.
The truck arrived in Ellsworth in February of 2016. Fire Chief Richard Tupper told city councilors Nov. 20 that since that time the free truck “has turned into not such a good deal, honestly.”
Tupper said the city has been “fortunate” not to have a forest fire in which the truck was needed during the past 21 months. Beyond that, he said, Hogan “thinks we need to use it for many other purposes which it is just not designed to do.”
Hogan has sent 10 complaint letters in the time the city has had the truck, Tupper said, “advising us that we are not using the truck as he sees most useful.”
“His expectations of its use exceeded our expectations of what its use would have been,” Tupper said.
When he gave the truck to the city in 2016, Hogan asked that if the city ever decided it did not need or want the vehicle that it be returned to him. Tupper came to the council on Nov. 20 asking to do just that, and councilors were unanimous in supporting his request.
“Let it go,” said Councilor Gary Fortier. “It’s a liability to us.”
The support for Tupper’s request did not come without a bit of ribbing, though.
“Ten?” asked Council Chairman Marc Blanchette, referring to the number of complaint letters Tupper received. “Why did you wait so long?”
City Manager David Cole, who said he was copied on some of the letters, said the complaints came in relatively short order.
Tupper said Hogan will make arrangements to have the truck removed from the Ellsworth fire station, where it has been parked outside since it arrived last year. The city also will return a kit shelter designed to house the truck to Hogan, as that was part of his donation when the truck arrived in 2016.
The city has “put only minor investment into this truck while in our possession,” Tupper said in a memo. Returning it to Hogan will not leave the city any less safe, either, he said.
“We haven’t really diminished the resource for fighting forest fires,” he said. “There are other resources of a similar nature in surrounding departments as well.”
Those departments include Hancock and the Maine Forest Rangers. Tupper said the city’s fire department also is “completely capable” of dealing with forest fires, should any arise, with the remaining equipment still in its possession.