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Donated vehicle to help fight fires
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GAINESVILLE — In the past, Gainesville firefighters have had to hoof it to emergencies in the woods or on the shores of Lake Lanier.

Only two months ago, a small brush fire continued to burn while firefighters walked a mile carrying shovels, rakes, hoses and extinguishers to a fire their trucks could not access.

"That’s a good little trek trying to drag all your equipment with you," said Interim Fire Chief Jon Canada.

By the time it was extinguished, the small brush fire had burned nearly an acre of land.

Even an incident in the Chicopee Woods bike trails has proved to be a daunting task.

"We’ve had several occasions where someone’s got hurt (in the woods), and we’ve had to go in and actually hand tote them out," Canada said.

Their boots were made for walking, but not that much, and today the Gainesville Fire Department will get its first rough terrain vehicle.

The vehicle has been donated by Kubota Manufacturing USA, and the Gainesville City Council will accept the donation in this morning’s council meeting.

Phil Sutton, director of business promotion and support for Kubota, said administrators at the Gainesville tractor plant had heard stories of firefighters walking long distances through rough terrain and wanted to help.

"We thought that we would provide the fire department with one of our vehicles that were made right here in Gainesville," Sutton said.

Kubota has offered to give the fire department a Kubota RTV 900. The vehicle has four-wheel drive, can carry a 1,600-pound load and can travel at up to 25 miles per hour, Sutton said. The vehicle cannot carry water to a remote fire, but it can help firefighters by transporting pumps and hoses that withdraw water from Lake Lanier.

"There’s several areas that we might not can get to other than with a vehicle like this or walking in ... whether it might be brush fires or whether it might be getting equipment in to bring patients out," Canada said.

Kubota has previously donated tractors to Lanier Tech and also to the Red Cross in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Sutton said.

"They’re very community oriented," Canada said of Kubota.

Kubota has operated in Gainesville since 1988, and Sutton said the gift is for everyone’s benefit.

"We’re giving it to the fire department, but the token is to the city of Gainesville for the support overall," Sutton said.

The Gainesville City Council will meet at 9 a.m. today in the Georgia Mountains Center.

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