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Firefighters help teach Charleston counterparts
Department has 2 tiller fire trucks
Charleston, S.C., firefighter Michael Campbell steers the back end of a Forsyth County tiller fire truck during training at the Cumming Fairgrounds. The local fire department is helping to train the visitors. - photo by Jim Dean

In some professions, competition is normal. But for emergency service workers, cooperation is essential.

That spirit of working together has been evident this summer as the Forsyth County Fire Department has welcomed members of the Charleston, S.C., Fire Department.

The Charleston department is scheduled to purchase a tiller fire truck, which is a long vehicle with a ladder, this fall.

Due to the vehicle’s extraordinary length, it has a separate steering mechanism in the rear. Two firefighters work together to drive the vehicle, one up front and one in the back.

To prevent the vehicle from jack knifing or tipping over, the rear driver must steer in the opposite direction of the driver in the front.

That unique arrangement takes quite a bit of training.

“It’s totally different from anything you’ve ever driven,” said Lt. Zach Buice with the Forsyth department.

“So we’re teaching them how to drive it and showing them everything we know.”

Since the local department has been home to two of the tiller trucks for nearly a decade, members were happy to share their expertise with the Charleston department.

Division Chief Jason Shivers said the cooperative training opportunity came together through his friendship with leaders of the Charleston department.

“There’s a relationship between us and them and it kind of goes back to a program that I’m a part of through the National Fire Academy,” Shivers said.

He noted that once he learned the Charleston department would be buying a tiller, he invited them to visit.

“We’ve organized this cohesive training opportunity and this [week] was the third of three phases where they’re sending [up] crew members from all three shifts that will be on the tiller in Charleston,” Shivers said.

Buice said helping the other firefighters learn about the tiller had been fun.

“It’s been an honor to be able to work side by side with them and help them out,” he said. “They’re a good group of guys and we’ve had a good time.”

Capt. Hunt Cain of the Charleston department agreed.

“It’s just an awesome experience to be able to go to another place, another city, another state and be able to work together to help each other out,” he said.

He noted that the advance training will allow his crews to be able to “hit the ground running” when their tiller truck arrives this fall.

“To get this training on the exact same machine, we already know what we’re getting and we won’t have to look at it so much [when it arrives],” he said.

Shivers said when the truck does arrive in Charleston, members of the Forsyth department will go there to help the department fine tune their operations with it, which will be especially important in the more urban setting with tight roads and more densely populated areas. 

Shivers said the training is representative of the spirit of emergency services across the nation.

“It’s a great example of the fire service being a giant family,” he said. “When one department has a problem or an issue, we all do, and we are known for helping each other out.”

Cain agreed, saying cooperation is what he most enjoys about his profession.

“The best thing about being a fireman is that no matter where you are in this nation, a fireman is a fireman and we’re always willing to help each other out.”