TOPSHAM, Maine — The Topsham Fire Department recently took ownership of a new combination ladder and pumper truck to replace a 1988 ladder truck and its Engine 3 pumper truck.
The shiny new red ladder truck, an E-ONE purchased from Greenwood Emergency Vehicles, arrived at Topsham’s fire station May 4 and proudly rolled down Main Street during the Memorial Day parade.
But what happened to the old ladder truck and Engine 3?
Fire Chief Brian Stockdale said Engine 3 went to the town of Wales, where it will join that town’s arsenal of firefighting tools.
The ladder truck, which the town traded in toward purchase of the new combination vehicle, followed a very different path to its new incarnation. After being wrapped in blue vinyl, the former Topsham ladder truck now makes its rounds as part of a promotional tour for Sauza Tequila.
According to a June 18 press release, Sauza Tequila, part of the Beam family, will take the truck — painted blue in honor of Sauza Blue Tequila — to New York City, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Chicago “with a squad of sizzling hot firemen” for its June “Make It With A Fireman” promotional campaign.
“The firemen will be ready to rescue passers-by with random acts of kindness and provide tips on how to make the most refreshing margarita,” the release states.
In preparing for the 2011 May town meeting that approved purchase of the new fire truck, Stockdale explained the department’s ladder truck posed a number of maintenance problems, didn’t meet current safety standards and had failed inspection. At Stockdale’s suggestion, town officials opted to replace both the ladder truck and Engine 3 with a single combination pump-and-ladder truck.
When the town put out the bid specifications for a new truck, it asked not only what it could sell the truck outright for, but what it could get for trade-in on the new truck.
Greenwood was able to give the town a better deal with a trade-in, Stockdale said.
“The most important thing was to get the most cost-effective truck we could get,” and to keep the costs to the town as low as possible in the process, the fire chief said.
Trading in the truck to Greenwood was the best financial decision the town could make, Stockdale said, and what Greenwood did with the truck from there was a decision over which he had no control.
Chris Champagne is the regional sales manager for Maine for Greenwood Emergency Vehicle and works out of the company’s Brunswick location. Champagne said Wednesday that Greenwood sold the truck to a marketing company that called him in search of an inexpensive ladder truck to use for promotion.
The timing worked perfectly, Champagne said, because Topsham’s new fire truck was about to be delivered and he had to start thinking about what to do with the old fire truck. The company that bought the truck stated it would not use the ladder.
Other fire departments looked at the former Topsham ladder truck, but they deemed it too expensive to modify the vehicle to meet current standards.
Greenwood Emergency Vehicles has been in business since 1979, headquartered in Massachusetts with three locations. Champagne said Greenwood will take trade-ins of fire trucks as a service to municipalities, which generally are not set up well to sell them.
Because Greenwood accepts replaced fire trucks as a service to its customers, the firm does not expect to make money as a result of reselling the vehicles, Champagne said. The opportunity to deal the former Topsham vehicle to a private buyer interested in using it to promote tequila sales allowed Greenwood to divest itself of the vehicle without added cost.
The market for used fire trucks is finicky, Champagne said. Unlike cars, there is no Kelly Blue Book value for old fire trucks, so pricing becomes a bit of a guessing game. Usually newer used trucks — rare in Maine — with some retained value are sold to a wholesaler via a broker.
Sometimes trucks are in such bad condition they go right to salvage, Champagne said. Other times they are sold to a private party. This may be anyone from a chimney cleaner to a painter who can reuse a ladder truck in their work, to a farmer who just wants the chaise or can use a pump for irrigation. The trucks sometimes get passed to other municipal departments, such as public works departments that can find other applications for them.
To have a truck used in a promotional campaign is not unusual either, Champagne said. Another trade-in from Biddeford, with a fresh coat of hot pink paint, travels around the country to raise money for breast cancer.
Fire trucks are big, shiny objects that take up space and draw attention to themselves, which makes them valuable promotional tools, Champagne said.
“They’re hard to walk around,” he added.
Champagne has seen many examples of repurposed fire trucks, but never one wrapped in blue vinyl to promote tequila.
Noting that creative reuse of discarded fire vehicles adds overall value to trade-ins, Champagne said, “it worked out really well for the citizens of Topsham.”