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Cherry Grove gets a 'mini' fire engine that can fit on its boardwalk

An 8-foot-by-5-foot fire truck that will serve the

An 8-foot-by-5-foot fire truck that will serve the Fire Island community of Cherry Grove made an intermediate stop at the Sayville Fire Department on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely

It wasn't easy for Cherry Grove to get its first new fire engine in 37 years.

At first, no company was interested in manufacturing a pint-size truck that could navigate the Fire Island community's narrow boardwalks.

A New Hyde Park company that sells and repairs fire trucks but had never built one ended up constructing the $125,000 vehicle -- which will be carried by barge to Cherry Grove Thursday.

Officials said the 8-foot-by-5-foot truck -- about one-third the size of a typical pumper truck -- has everything a modern fire company could ever want.

It's just tiny.

"It looks like a fire truck, but it's a Matchbox version," Cherry Grove Fire Department 1st Assistant Chief Craig L. Williams said. "It looks like a little baby."

The new truck will replace the department's only fire engine, which was built in the 1970s and is also small. It will be semiretired and held in reserve for emergencies, Williams said.

By coincidence, the new truck is arriving less than three months after a devastating fire destroyed several unoccupied houses and the community's historic Grove Hotel, which also was empty. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries in the March 27 blaze, the cause of which is still undetermined.

Williams said the new truck would not have helped contain that fire, which he said spread because the hamlet is sparsely populated during the winter. The fire department has 54 volunteers in the summer, and only four during the winter, Williams said.

"If anybody had noticed it 15 minutes sooner, it would have made a big difference," he said.

Cherry Grove has no paved roads, so its fire truck must be nimble enough to travel along wooden boardwalks that are no more than 5 feet wide.

Cherry Grove officials began planning to buy a new truck last year, with money coming from reserve funds and fundraisers. They enlisted Neville Apparatus to find a manufacturer, but no company wanted the job. So Neville, which sells and fixes trucks for dozens of Long Island fire companies, built the Cherry Grove truck in the company's 37,000-square-foot repair shop.

Neville president Paul Gurney said he drew up the plans himself using old-fashioned pencil and paper.

"It was a very difficult little project to conquer," Gurney said. "We couldn't find anybody who even wanted to get involved in this project. . . . I decided to step up to the plate and do it ourselves."

The truck, with "golf cart-style wheels," Gurney said, will be driven Thursday through the streets of Sayville, where it was quartered Wednesday , to a barge that will carry it across Great South Bay to Fire Island.

Gurney said the truck features a 500-gallon pump, hoses, breathing masks and radio and lighting equipment.

"It's got all the regular bells and whistles," Williams said. "But it's a smaller version."

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