HUNTINGTON - The Huntington Fire Department's long-anticipated kelly green Marshall University fire engine was unveiled at last Tuesday morning at the department's University Station on 20th Street.
The engine features the words "Thundering Herd" on the side, along with several other Marshall logos and helmets with "75" on the sides to honor the victims of the Nov. 14, 1970, Marshall football plane crash.
The new engine is a 2019 Spartan and was purchased through Johnson's Emergency Vehicle Solutions of Wellston, Ohio, where there is also a rich Marshall University history, Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader said.
"The Marshall roots run very deep," she said.
The engine is capable of holding up to 750 gallons of water and discharging up to 500 gallons per minute, and has a short wheelbase and tight turning radius, making it suitable for serving the many hills and narrow streets of Huntington, Rader said.
"The cost of this new engine was $454,088, yet the Marshall green color and the logos are absolutely priceless," Rader said. "(It) means more to this department and city and community than I can ever tell you."
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said the city is defined by the tragic 1970 plane crash.
"Everything we do, everything we represent is shaped by what happened on Nov. 14," Williams said. "But it's shaped by how our community came together and held each other up - found a way to be able to stand up again."
Williams, who played football for Marshall from 1974-78 in the years following the tragedy, for a team dubbed the "Young Thundering Herd," said his teammates would be honored and proud of the inclusion of the "75" helmet logos on the new engine.
"The heartbeat of our city is Marshall University," Williams said.
Williams noted that Huntington City Council approved several other new additions to the Fire Department this year, including a necessary additional set of gear for firefighters, another additional truck in the works and several modifications and additions to stations around town. This year, City Council approved the largest ever budget for the Fire Department, he said.
Plans are developing for a new fire station, which would replace the current University Station, to be located on the corner of 9th Avenue and 20th Street, Williams said. Additionally, the station in Guyandotte will undergo a "complete overhaul," for which there will be an open house for community members upon its completion.
"From Guyandotte to Westmoreland, to the heart of the city right here next to Marshall University, we are doing everything we can to make sure our citizens are protected," Williams said.
"I've got to tell you, I've been seeing pictures all summer waiting to see (the engine)," Marshall President Jerome Gilbert said. "And it is much more beautiful in person. It is a beautiful fire truck, and we're very proud of it."
Gilbert, noting that this November will mark 49 years since the plane crash, said Huntington is a powerful city that has been defined by its ability to cope with and bounce back from various challenges and tragedies.
"Now, every Nov. 14, we stand at the fountain, and I'm on the platform, and I look down in the first row at the firefighters," he said. "So I think it's only appropriate that we are dedicating this fire truck to the 75."
Gilbert said he believes the new engine is valuable for the university, the city and the Fire Department alike.
"I think you will be very impressed with this truck as it goes around the city," he said.