It's hard to beat a small town parade with lots of fire trucks for an All-American event, but the town of Atoka, Oklahoma, pulled out all the stops recently with an event that should earn a spot in the Guinness World Records. A truck and two firefighters from Chickasaw National Recreation Area were part of the effort, which was all for a worthy cause.
Recent years of hot, dry weather have contributed to unusually severe wildfire seasons in places like Oklahoma and Texas, and training and cooperation with other departments have become more important than ever in rural areas that rely primarily on volunteer fire departments.
One such event is the Southeast Regional Fire School in Atoka, Oklahoma, (population 3,250) conducted by Oklahoma State University Fire Service Training (FST). “This regional school offers training in most all firefighting areas with a focus on Wildland Firefighting and Managing Wildland Fires,” said FST Rural Program Coordinator Bob Allen. “Oklahoma is still in the one of the worse drought conditions that has lead to a record number of wild fires.”
That makes the annual weekend session even more important, so organizers decided to add a little fun as an incentive to encourage a good turnout for this year's school.
The draw? How about a chance to break the world record for the largest number of fire trucks in a parade? The previous record of 159 trucks was set in Switzerland.
It appears the weekend was a success, from the standpoint of both training and the parade record. Allen says 523 fire fighters took part in the training, making it the largest training session the agency has ever conducted.
The parade was set to begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, January 20 as a kick-off to the training session on the following two days. To be counted for the record attempt, vehicles had to be "fire engines that were able to fight fire or have previously fought fire," and the parade had to cover at least a two-mile route.
Allen says the trucks were lined up for three and a half miles at the start of the route, and 220 fire trucks drove in the event, shattering the old record of 159. A total of 307 vehicles actually showed up for the parade, but organizers were careful to count only the 220 that met the qualifications as part of the record documentation that is being submitted to the Guinness organization.
Among the participants were firefighters Kane Seitz and Cole Goodman and Chickasaw National Recreation Area's "Type VI Engine," which is a small "initial attack wildland engine with minimal pump capacities of 50 gallons per minute." Smoke eaters accustomed to the old vernacular would probably just call it a "brush truck." If you're curious about the various classifications of fire trucks used in the National Park Service, you'll find brief descriptions at this link.
A short video posted on YouTube shows part of the parade, including truck number "160" which broke the record, along with examples of the training provided during the weekend.
The town of Atoka is located about an hour's drive from Chickasaw National Recreation Area.