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Norwalk Fire Dept. Mechanics Work Wonders

The truck is huge, with a lot of specialized equipment behind its roll-up doors. And it pulls up whenever there is a hazardous waste spill anywhere in Fairfield County, be it Bridgeport, Stamford or Danbury. Thing is, the Norwalk Fire Department didn't exactly buy it.

Mechanics Al DiPietro and Scott Plank pieced it together. "They're indispensible," Fire Marshal Glenn Iannaccone said of the pair, who have a reputation for saving the city money.

No one will put an exact dollar figure on it. DiPietro says the pair saved Norwalk more than $300,000 with one truck-building project. Plank says they save the department "thousands" by working on the firefighters' air tanks in-house. "It also saves on down time because we're not sending the pack out," said Plank, head of the apparatus department. "We can turn it around faster than sending the pack out."

"Over here we have our hands into everything," said DiPietro. "We do everything. We fix all the equipment, all the trucks, all the cars."

Everything includes taking worn police cars and turning them into vehicles for fire inspectors, a job performed by part-timer Mike Hegar.

DiPietro says piecing together trucks fulfills needs that the city wouldn't spend money on. "Do you need it? Yeah," he says. "Do you have to have it? No."

Some years ago, Ring's End lumber donated a crane to the NFD. The pair mounted it onto a truck. "You don't see many fire companies that have a crane," said DiPietro. "We do."

They created a spare rescue truck by taking a 1979 body off one truck and remounting it on a 1987 chassis. They made a tactical rescue truck by having a 1979 pumper and a 1994 truck box mounted onto a chassis, and then adding underbody compartments. They also made a collapse vehicle, suitable for collapsed buildings or collapsed holes, which carries all of the equipment that firefighters used to have to pull out of storage whenever there was a problem.

The Haz-Mat vehicle features a trailer donated by Pepsi, pulled by a pumper truck the mechanics turned into a tractor. "We moved the axle up and cut the frame," DiPietro said of the pumper. "It was a very big project. We had to put all the special connections for the air – it's kind of a unique truck. You don't see many of these around."

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