The long, red horizontal object decorated with flashing Christmas lights seen driving through neighborhoods this week is actually a Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services ladder truck spreading the department’s wishes for a fire-free holiday.
Interim Fire Chief Shauwn Howell said firefighters came up with the idea of decorating the ladder truck with Christmas lights and outfitting it with a sound system to play Christmas songs while driving through residential neighborhoods.
Firefighters plan on being out from about 5:30 to 8:30 nightly through Friday displaying the decorated fire truck and wishing residents a fire-safe holiday.
On Monday, firemen covered an area east of Main Street; Tuesday it was the residential area west of Main to Hazel Street; Wednesday night it will be the area west of Hazel, followed by the Dollarway area and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff on Thursday and south of Interstate 530 on Friday.
Lt. Harold Clark, fire and emergency services’ public information officer, said it is part of the department’s “Focusing on the Community” campaign and motto.
Clark credited Capt. Mike Davis’ “A Shift” crew at the Central Fire Station for coming up with the idea. They took the project to Howell, and “he (Howell) said, ‘make it happen’.” Firemen managed to secure a number of donations to cover the bulk of the expense.
The candy canes handed out to children were donated by Walmart, Clark added.
Clark said the truck with its lights and sound system was originally scheduled for the Christmas parade downtown Dec. 3, but firemen were called out on an alarm and the debut was delayed.
Since firefighters work shifts around the clock, they are aware of the dangers posed by holiday cooking, holiday lights and other Christmas activities, Clark said.
“They want Christmas to be free of fires that might take a life or cause damage to residences,” Clark emphasized, adding the firemen manning the ladder truck will be happy to stop for pictures and pass on safety tips.
“They are an innovative bunch and believe in keeping the ‘focus on the community’,” said Howell.