On Thursday, Municipal Affairs Minister Eddie Joyce dropped by the local fire hall to officially announce details about the new truck, which will cost $278,000 and be paid for by the province and the town council on an 80/20 split. The vehicle will replace a 1995 model.
"This one right now serves three communities — Upper Island Cove, Bishop's Cove and Bryant's Cove," explained local fire chief Harvey Mercer. "The past two or three years now, we've been fighting for it, and we finally got approved to get our new rescue unit. It's a long time coming … she's going to be well used, guaranteed."
On average, the fire department handles 40-50 medical calls each year, in addition to responding to other emergencies. Mercer said that number has been climbing in recent years.
"They depend on the fire department, because our response time to Bryant's Cove is probably seven minutes, and to Bishop's Cove it's probably six or seven minutes. Island Cove is even less. So if an ambulance takes 20 minutes to get there, by the time they get there, we've got the defibrillator aboard, we've got the oxygen aboard — we've got everything there. The only thing we cannot do is transport. So the van is a great asset to us."
The new truck will have extra storage space and more horsepower.
Mercer credits Upper Island Cove Mayor George Adams for going to bat for the town and also acknowledges the work of local MHA Pam Parsons in getting the new truck.
"This is something that's been on their list for many, many years — it's long overdue," said Parsons. "They have a lot of medical calls in particular, so this medical unit is very important. It's essential to this community, this part of our region, and I'm happy to say that today it's become a reality."
Adams, who is not seeking reelection after 18 years as mayor, called Thursday a great day for the town.
"He have lobbied quite extensively over the past three years, both with the former government and this government, and finally our lobbying has paid off," he said.
"I guess it's a recognition on the part of the Department of Municipal Affairs that in order to have an active and a committed group of volunteers to man our fire department, it's crucial to provide them with the equipment to carry out their duties, and I think this is a recognition today of that. I'm absolutely delighted that finally now we can put our old fire rescue van, which has operated basically on fumes for the last few years, we can put that one out to pasture and we will have a very reliable, new piece of equipment that our fire department can certainly utilize."
The Upper Island Cove Volunteer Fire Department currently has 26 members, with Mercer reporting there are several applications for membership on file.