Click photo to enlarge
The new Scotts Valley Fire Department fire truck glistens in the sunlight after it is pulled from the station. The truck went into service on Thursday. (Kevin Johnson/Sentinel)

SCOTTS VALLEY -- After a nine-month gestation period, a new, custom-built fire engine rolled out of a Wisconsin manufacturing plant and arrived at Scotts Valley's Glenwood Drive station last month, officially going into service Thursday afternoon.

Fire departments and districts typically replace their engines every seven years, about a third of the way through their average lifespan, said the Scotts Valley Fire Protection District's chief, Dan Grebil. But because of the economic downturn, the district stretched that out to eight years, using the extra time to tuck away some of the property taxes it collects and putting them into a capital improvement fund.

In March, Battalion Chief and fleet manager Jim Delucchi placed an order to manufacturer Pierce for the $452,000 Type 1 fire engine, essentially the same model as the others at its Glenwood Drive and Erba Lane stations, except with LED lights that work off batteries rather than generators.

"This is the battleship of engines, no leather, just vinyl and steel," Delucchi said, gesturing inside a cab already filled with equipment. Besides water and foam tanks, the engine -- along with all the others the district owns -- features Pierce's ALL STEER system, allowing it to easily turn on narrow streets and avoid the dreaded three-point turn.

That's important, since some of the areas in the district's 22-mile response area include difficult roads and terrain, Grebil said.

"We have some of the tightest roads in the area," Scotts Valley Fire Capt. Butch Theilen said, while taking it out for a ride Friday afternoon. He and several other firefighters put the 28-foot-long rig's agility on display, turning it in circles on a residential street that would challenge even a medium-sized SUV.

The engine's arrival started a chain reaction, booting the previous "front-line" engine into reserve status. The previous reserve engine was donated to the department's Branciforte counterparts, Grebil said.

Follow Sentinel reporter Kimberly White on Twitter at Twitter.com/kwhite95066