Photos by Barbie Porter
Frazee Fire Department Chief Joe Nelson gave a tour of the new fire engine to  United Community Bank Branch Manager Ashley Renollet.

By Barbie Porter


The Frazee Fire Department’s new engine has arrived, and it is custom built for efficiency.

Frazee Fire Chief Joe Nelson said the truck was built by Custom Fire in Wisconsin, has an L9 engine with 350 horsepower and a 1,000 gallon tank and transports five firefighters. 

The process of purchasing the 2021 engine began several years ago and included much research, such as looking at other department’s engines. If a new tool or concept was identified as potentially beneficial, the department discussed it further to decide if the new set up or modification would be a good fit for them as well. The department also defined needs of the engine and optimal location for tools. 

“We started with a dream version,” Nelson said. “Then we looked over the list many times until we came down to reality.”

The purchase was made possible with two factors—a grant and a lender. The grant came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The new water pump control panel is in the fire engine cab, allowing the operator to stay out of the elements and focused on the task at hand.

“We applied for the FEMA grant three times and were denied,” Nelson said. 

As the years went by, the department started seeing failures on the workhorse engines. The department has one engine from 2000, one from 1990 and a third one, from 1972, broke a few years back. 

“Engine three went down two years ago, and then another went down last summer, and the other needed repairs,” Nelson said. “There was a time when the fire hall looked more like a dance hall.”   

“Now if there is dancing it is a two step,” joked Ashley Renollet of United Community Bank of Frazee.

When the situation was looking dire, the FEMA grant came through and was approved. The grant covered $391,000 of the $531,000 total cost. A loan was needed for the remainder. 

Renollet is the branch manager and loan officer at United Community Bank in Frazee. The fire department approached her to see if there was a loan option available, as they aimed to keep the business local whenever possible.

Renollet said the request was a new one to her, as it had to do with a municipality. After discussing options with bank officials, an order to proceed was laid out and the bank provided the fire department with a competitive interest loan.

“When we came to United Community Bank they worked hard to make it happen,” Nelson said, adding the city mayor, council, lawyers and more all had a big hand on bringing the project to the finish line.

Now that the new engine truck is in Frazee, firefighters will likely be using it as the go-to vehicle for 30 or more years, after training is complete. Nelson explained utilizing the engine efficiently and knowing where to find items is a must because when a call comes in, seconds matter. 

The firefighters are also set to begin training on the pump panel. Nelson said the department has firefighters that are pump specialists, but all cross train, as the job is imperative.

“The pump panel is enclosed,” Nelson said. “That is new for us with this engine. That will be helpful for the pump operator because the cabin is cooled or heated and will keep that person out of the outside elements.”

Keeping the pump operator focused on the task is important, as they are the lifeline providing water and proper pressure to all those in the midst of battle. Cameras are also installed to give the operator a view of all that is happening, including the ability to monitor the amount of water remaining in the tank without leaving the cab.

Another new tool added to the fire department’s engine is an air primer. Nelson said the department will no longer need to take the extra steps of priming when using a drop tank or hydrant, as the new primer takes care of those steps automatically and removes that delay in time that is experienced when priming done manually.

Once the tools and gadgets are in place and training is complete the engine will be in service and ready to answer its first call.

“We started with a dream version. Then we looked over the list many times until we came down to reality.”

– Joe Nelson on the new Frazee Fire Department truck