Nevada (IA) Community Fire Department– Birthplace of the Hawk Tool

THE NEVADA COMMUNITY FIRE DEPARTMENT.  After having worked for 35 years with the Nevada Community Fire Department (NCFD), Nevada, Iowa, it would be unthinkable to consider anyplace else the birthplace of the Hawk Tool.  The department has tolerated an infusion of Hawk Tools (and other experimental equipment) on its apparatus for years.  And, its members have been long served as my work’s primary research and development team.

Nevada is the county seat for Story County, approximately 30 miles north (on Interstate 35) and 7 miles east (on US Highway 30) of Des Moines, Iowa’s capital.  NCFD  serves a suburban/rural fire district of approximately 144 square miles and a population of approximately 9000.  Within its boundaries are 12 miles of Interstate 35 (connecting Kansas City, MO and Minneapolis/St.Paul, MN), 12 miles of US Highway 30 and the junction of Union Pacific Railroad’s former Rock Island North/South “Spine Line,” and its busy double-track, East/West “Overland Route” mainline, roughly 45 linear miles of the busiest rail line in Iowa.

EVOLUTION OF THE DEPARTMENT.  Iowa was designated as a separate territory in 1838 and became the 29th state in 1846.  Nevada was first platted in 1853. Its fire department was established in 1860, a year before the start of the American Civil War (as a point of reference, the Iowa City Fire Department– arguably the oldest in the state– was authorized in 1842).

The department is now part of Nevada’s Department of Public Safety and is, itself, comprised of two divisions, Fire Protection (which includes selected technical rescue incidents, Haz-Mat first response, and initial response to environmental emergencies) and EMS (which performs medical first responder services).  It is staffed by a career Chief (Director of Fire and EMS) and approximately 30 volunteers, most of whom are cross-trained for both functions. The agency responds to approximately 700 calls a year, roughly 70% of which are calls for emergency medical services.

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CURRENT APPARATUS.  The department currently operates a Sutphen 70′ “Mini-Tower” and two Spartan engines– one a Spartan/Toyne engine-tank, the other a new Spartan/Toyne rescue engine.  Nevada also houses two tankers, two 4WD Ford wildland units, and a 4WD Ford rescue squad.  For several years, the department operated a heavy rescue squad equipped with a cascade system.  The major limitation of the approach was that whenever air service was required, the rescue squad was also out of service.  The replacement rescue engine does not have a cascade system– this function will now be provided by a trailer-mounted, high-pressure SCBA air supply compressor and cascade system.

Nevada Apparatus
Nevada’s principal apparatus, counterclockwise from left center: Truck 110 (70′ Sutphen Tower), Rescue Engine 210 (1500/750 Spartan/Toyne), Engine 310 (1250/1000 Spartan Toyne), Colo Fire & Rescue’s Rescue Pumper 904 (background).

HAND TOOLS & EQUIPMENT.  Nevada has, for many years, carried a generous inventory of hand tools on its front-line apparatus.  And, the equipment carried by major apparatus has tended to be fairly uniform in type, number, and mounting locations.  For example, each of the engines and the truck carry two Hawk Tools, two Halligan bars, and a flathead axe.  In general, they are mounted in the rear riding compartment as shown in the photos below (upper right and bottom): one Hawk Tool by itself, with one Halligan mated with a flathead (conventional “married set” fashion) and the other mated with a Hawk tool– each set secured in a PAC Irons-Lok.  On the opposite side of the riding compartment are a pickhead axe and a “closet hook-length” Clemens hook.

Elsewhere, in one or more tool compartments (example below, in top, left photo), these units carry a fairly standard complement of chainsaws, positive pressure ventilation blowers, forcible entry “married sets,” thermal imagers and a Pulaski axe, longer Clemens hooks, an Odd-job hook (also called a Universal hook), wrecking bars, crowbars of varying lengths, and bolt cutters.

BIRTH OF THE HAWK TOOL.  The Hawk Tool was most directly influenced by the development and delivery of “hands-on” courses on truck company operations.  However, the truck company course, itself, was a direct result of working with the Nevada Fire Department.  It embodied (and still does) a very active group of volunteer firefighters and emergency medical responders, outstanding community support and a moderate– but persistent and varied– volume of emergency calls.  And, of course, its most direct inspiration for the Hawk Tool’s development was the department’s long-standing tradition of “truck work.”  Its Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 was organized in 1913, making it one of the very earliest “truck company” operations in the Midwest.

All-in-all, the Hawk would be hard-pressed to find a better, more innovative, place to call home.