Fire Chief John Oates is pictured with a fire truck used in filming the TV show "Rescue Me." The department purchased the truck for $224,500.
EAST HARTFORD — The town's newest fire truck has yet to respond to an emergency, but it's already seen a lot of action — on the set of the FX dramedy "Rescue Me" starring Denis Leary.
"I don't know if famous is really the right word, but yes, it's been seen before," Fire Chief John Oates said of the truck, which was used during the show's seven-year run from 2004 to 2011. "It's very much of a right place right time kind of thing."
Oates said the department found the truck serendipitously this spring on the floor of Seagrave Fire Apparatus in Clintonville, Wisconsin, while checking on the specifications for another piece of apparatus.
The department had been looking to replace Engine 3, which is about 12 years old, but was not in a position to do so budget-wise.
"Our apparatus replacement master plan says that engines should be replaced on a 10-year interval," Oates said. "But the challenge is, the town is limited in its means. When the cost of a fire apparatus is, brand new, out of the box from the factory fire press, about half a million dollars, and when the town can only afford to spend so much money on capital purchases each year, it's really, really tough to eat up about a third to a half of the allotment on a vehicle purchase."
Oates said he and the other fire officials asked about the truck out of curiosity, and were told it was used on Rescue Me and returned to the manufacturer by producers in November.
"I said, 'Well, that's interesting, what are you going to do with it?' " Oates said. The manufacturer said it was up for sale, and "I said if the price is right, we'll try to figure out a way to buy it because we're way behind in our apparatus replacement."
The department was able to obtain a bid waiver and purchase the vehicle for $224,500, about half of what it would have originally cost.
"In this economic world that we're in and the condition of the community and the state and everything, there's no free money and you need to take advantage of opportunities like this when they come," Oates said.
He credited Mayor Marcia Leclerc and Finance Director Michael Walsh with enabling the department to seize this unique chance for a great deal.
"We managed to find a solution to a problem that's been nagging us for awhile," Oates said.
Because the truck was essentially a prop, it's in like-new condition despite its age, an especially rare find.
"It's seven years old but it has no miles and no hours on it," Oates said. "It's literally got the new car smell."