More than 50 area citizens and another additional 40 Morehead firefighters gathered at the city’s Station 1 on Monday night to welcome the new Sutphen Custom Aerial Apparatus to the city during a traditional “push-in” ceremony.

It’s not a common occasion—it’s only once every several years that a city can afford such a purchase listed at nearly $1.2 million—but it was an eye-opening and touching ceremony that has a proud tradition.

The tradition began in the late 1800s to early 1900s when firefighters used horses to pull pumpers to fires.

Upon a fire, the firefighters would return to the station and wash down the pumper and the horses.

The firefighters would then push the pumper back into the station as the horses were unable to back up the pumper.

This signified that the pumper was ready to serve again.

The tradition continued into modern day but has transformed into a means to welcome a new truck to the department and ready it to begin serving its community.

After detailing the tradition, MFD Chief Jeff Anderson welcomed those in attendance and recognized several people in the audience, including Morehead City Council and all those who worked behind the scenes to make the purchase possible.

Anderson then talked briefly about the fire department’s mission to protect the community.

“This is something we’ve been looking at over the past few years as something our city really needed to help protect our downtown area with the college, hospital, residential areas and other businesses,” Anderson said. “The Mayor and Council said that public safety was a main priority and they proved it by allowing us to move forward on this purchase. Our mission is to serve and protect this community and this is a great step forward in helping us accomplish our goals.”

Anderson said he, along with assistant chief John Northcutt, and a few others in a “tight circle,” worked closely to help find the right apparatus for Morehead.

Chief said he was also thankful to Sutphen of Ohio, who helped them diligently throughout the entire process, including multiple face-to-faces with the Sutphen family, ensuring the city received what it needed.

“I’m very proud of this new truck and we are going to get a lot of use out of it. You’ll see this truck quite a bit,” he said. “I want to say a special thank you to the taxpayers of Morehead. This is your truck and I promise I will take the absolute best care of it for you.”

Mayor Jim Tom Trent said since he took office nearly four years ago, public safety was always his top concern.

“When I came into office we looked at public safety as our number one priority,” Trent said. “After we get the go-ahead from the state on our new police and fire station, plus this beautiful truck, we will have allotted more than $5 million towards public safety.”

Trent said the decision in his mind was a no-doubter. He said citizens want first-class service and that requires first-class equipment to do so.

“The least we can do is give the people who answer the bell first class training, facilities, and equipment,” he said.

The Mayor also commended fire leadership and firefighters for the way they treated the previous apparatus throughout its three decades of service.

“We have a 35-year-old ladder truck that looks like its 15 years old,” Trent said. “They kept such great care of the old truck, unfortunately with time some of the hydraulics and other technology started to lapse.”

Trent also noted that in Kentucky, the Morehead Fire Department is the only volunteer group that protects a state university in Morehead State and a hospital the size of St. Claire HealthCare.

He added the dedication of the group had never been seen more clearly than last month during the search effort for a young boy who had been swept away during flood waters.

“Members of this fire department, along with many other first responders, would come into take a quick break covered in mud from their heads to their toes,” he said. “When those tones dropped again, there wasn’t a single person who didn’t immediately jump up and respond to the call. I’m so proud of the work these young men and women do.”

After a special plaque dedication to the Mayor, Council members, city clerk Crissy Cunningham and city attorney Joyce Stevens, the “push-in” formally took place.

Firefighters and others gathered in front of the truck and pushed it into the station, although they had a little help from the truck operated by Northcutt to get up the slight incline considering the it weighs more than 58,000 pounds.

Old Tower 1 has already been delivered to the Farmers Fire Department through surplus, receiving the engine at little to no cost.

Farmers’ firefighters will train on the apparatus this week and their Chief Darrell Glover said the engine will still be used fully as an aerial apparatus.

Brad Stacy can be reached at bstacy@themoreheadnews.com or by telephone at 784-4116.