ORANGE CITY—Dennis Vander Wel is looking forward to replacing a 53-year-old fire tanker in the Orange City Fire Department while saving residents some money in the process.

The firefighting organization recently received an Assistance to Firefighters Grant totaling $342,857.14 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The money will be used to swap out the department’s tanker No. 64 with a newer vehicle.

“We are very excited about it, of course, because we’ve got a couple of vehicles that are coming due for replacement and that was one of them,” said Vander Wel, chief of the fire department.

He did not yet know when the department will get a replacement vehicle since the organization still needs to complete the bid process for making such a purchase.

However, Vander Wel noted a new tanker will be safer and more useful for the department than No. 64.

“Safer is a big thing,” he said. “With upgrading the braking system — most people don’t know how to drive a straight stick anymore, so the new one will have an automatic transmission and that kind of thing. So it will be much more user-friendly.”

The department also plans to put a larger pump on the new vehicle, which will increase the gallonage the tanker will be able to handle compared to No. 64. Vander Wel said that in turn will help improve the department’s Insurance Services Office rating.

The rating is an indication of how well a fire department is able to protect its community. It’s shown on a scale of one to 10, with a lower number indicating a better rating.

“Sheldon, Orange City, Sioux Center, everybody tries to lower their ratings, which helps with insurance costs for businesses and property owners,” Vander Wel said.

The department’s call volume has fluctuated the past year during the coronavirus pandemic, although it usually receives eight or nine calls per month.

“That’s a pretty good average,” Vander Wel said.

The Orange City Fire Department has six vehicles in its fleet. In 2009, the department was awarded a grant through FEMA to purchase its other tanker vehicle. It also has been able to purchase other equipment such as breathing apparatuses and turnout gear with grants it has received from the agency in the past.

“In the last 15-20 years, probably closer to 15 years, we’ve probably been awarded over $600,000 in grants, so we’ve done well,” Vander Wel said.