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Ask Matt ... about gas-guzzling emergency responders

The Lightning's intrepid researcher Matt Matteson gets answers about local matters.


Q. I have often seen Hendersonville's large fire trucks respond to car wrecks. Would it not be more cost effective to have smaller SUV-type trucks answer those calls and keep the big trucks parked to save wear and tear?

I posed this question to Hendersonville Fire Chief Dorian Flowers. In short, it's all about location, equipment, and response time. City firefighters often work some distance from the downtown station performing fire inspections, conducting training, or doing hydrant maintenance and the ladder truck may be closest to the location of a reported accident. Also, if one of the department's main pumpers is already on a call, the ladder truck may be next in line to respond to an emergency.
If a smaller SUV vehicle were to respond to an auto accident and a call came in for a structure fire, the SUV team could lose precious time doubling back to the firehouse to board the ladder truck or a pumper. Chief Flowers shared that the ladder truck carries the "jaws of life" vehicle occupant extraction tool. Another point: Large and highly visible, fire trucks make for a safer work zone, particularly if the accident is on I-26.
During 2013, the City Fire Department responded to over 3,200 incidents. The ladder truck's share was one in five. Chief Flowers also provided data showing that wear and tear on fire apparatus is a non-issue. Fire trucks have an unusually long life. The department just retired a 39-year old fire engine and the next oldest has 22 years of service. I can see why one might question the use of large fire trucks to respond to routine calls, but what I took away was that fire trucks are like an armada of ships — offering little value tied up in port growing barnacles and waiting for the next war.

Q. Whatever happened to the Small Plate Crawl that used to be held in the spring and fall in Hendersonville?
I spoke with Laura Huff, food writer for the Carolina Epicurean, about the two-day event. Laura has organized five plate crawls here since 2009. For those unfamiliar with a crawl, patrons can visit any participating restaurant and sample their cuisine. The tasty offerings range from $2 to $8 a plate. You pay as you go. At Laura's last event in 2011, 20 restaurants participated. Laura said that despite the fact that these events were well attended, promotional support became unsustainable in Hendersonville. But if you like the crawl format, there is one in Asheville in late February. Go to for details. Maybe sample a couple of spicy meatballs.

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