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Fire department introduces "Brush 48"

Push-in ceremony a reminder of time-honored traditions

The St Augustine Fire Department introduced the newest member of its fleet by going old school with a Wetting Down and Push In ceremony that included the use of Engine 3, the department's own piece of history, a 1928 American LaFrance fire truck.

The ceremony, held on on Wednesday, March 15 at the department’s Main Fire Station on Malaga St., was reminiscent of the fire service's rich history of traditions and customs. As noted by Fire Chief Carlos Aviles, "Celebrating our heritage is what we are all about, but if we are not careful, our history and traditions will start to slip away one by one, until one day you look around and they're all gone". By bringing back the push-in ceremony, the St. Augustine Fire Department embraced this traditional way of celebrating the purchase of a new fire truck.

At Wednesday’s ceremony, the new truck was first blessed by General Services Deputy Director Timothy Fleming, then wet-down by Mayor Nancy Shaver, City Commisisoner Nancy Sikes-Kline, and retired Fire Chief JC Costeira.  Immediately following, with the help of members of the public who were in attendance, the firefighters pushed the truck into the fire house.  Fire Captain James VonBretzel assisted from the driver's seat with the truck turned on and placed in neutral.  Fire departments in attendance today included: St. Augustine Fire Department, St. Johns County Fire Rescue, City of Palatka Fire Department, Flagler Beach Fire Department, Marion County Fire Rescue, Des Moines (Iowa) Fire Department, Fairfax County (Virginia) Fire Rescue, and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY).

Brush 48The new piece of equipment, appropriately named "Brush 48", is commonly referred to as a brush truck, specifically built and equipped to work fires in off-road conditions. The truck is equipped with specialized firefighting equipment and is capable of self-pumping water from an onboard 350gallon tank. Following the push-in ceremony, the new truck will be immediately ready for service.

The tradition dates to the 1830s when fire companies used horse drawn equipment that was quite difficult to back into the fire house requiring firefighters to push the carriage into the fire house. The ceremony mimics a daily routine for those firefighters by literally pushing the new fire truck into the fire house.

In these early days of the tradition, members of the fire department would perform a "wet-down,” a ritual celebrated by many fire departments in the United States. When new horses or pumpers were purchased, neighboring firehouses, department chiefs, and citizens from the surrounding community would attend the ceremony to celebrate the new addition to their neighborhood firehouse. Local clergy came to bestow blessings upon the horse throwing holy water unto it for long life, strength, speed and good health. The blessing would serve to ward off any evil spirits or "gremlins" that could affect the firehouse's newest addition.