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ND firefighters give up pension for new truck

Firefighters in a town of about 100 people volunteered more than just their time to help the local community.

Knowing the department's almost 40-year-old fire truck needed replacing, members of the Great Bend, N.D., fire department gave up their retirement funds to buy a new one.

"We stuck a fair amount of money into (the old truck) every year," said Fire Chief Tim Fenske. "It was just old and slow and not the most reliable."

He figured the idea of a new truck had been on people's minds for about five years, but the decision to dissolve the $30,000 pension fund a couple years ago "got the ball rolling."

"With a small department and a limited amount of funds, it was just a real big stretch for us to be able to get something," said Don Leinen, Jr., the first assistant fire chief. "The members threw out the idea of taking the money out of our retirement accounts. It was money that would be there and continue to grow over the years."

Almost all of the department's 30 members gave up their retirement money, which is doled out based on how active members are in the department.

The department received its new truck - a 2000 model that cost $90,000 - about a month ago, and it hopes to bring more than just better service to the community. Members are working with ISO to lower the insurance rating of homeowners in the town, about 55 miles south of Fargo.

"Now that we have a more reliable truck ... and more water storage, we hope to save a lot of people in the community money," Fenske said.

As for the old fire truck, plans are to use it for pumping water at "dry hydrants" like those in a nearby river.

In addition to the retirement funds, the department earned money from its annual fish fry and revenue from pull tabs and bingo in two area bars, and the district board borrowed the rest.

"Everyone kind of realized that it was one of the only ways to get a decent truck," Fenske said of donating the pensions. "We could've gotten a cheaper one, yeah, but everyone knew it was going to be a truck we'll keep for a long time."

Emily Hartley is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.