29 July 1981
Fire Chief’s Smoking Car Fails Inspection, Invites Wisecracks
Photo Caption: BREATHING FIRE AND SMOKE…Not a dragon, but Princeton’s shiny red fire-chief’s car. It is, as they say in the trade, an oil-burner.
Where there’s excessive smoke, there’s the Fire Chief.
That big. black cloud in town these days isn’t a fire, it’s the Fire Chief’s car. which ignominiously failed inspection earlier this month. Flunked the whole emission test: hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and-“this really cracks me up!” says Fire Chief Ralph Hulit Jr.~ “excessive smoke.”
Lots of jokes follow the chief when he drives the car. Things like Hey, Chief-where’s the fire?” But Chief Hulit is so grateful for the vehicle that he just shrugs them off.
Originally a Township police car. the 1075 Pontiac later belonged to the Township engineer. When the Township updated its fleet. Mayor Josie Hall donated the car to the fire department.
The Pontiac sedan proudly bears 105.000 miles and Chief Hulit just hopes the department can keep it running another year. Once, its electric system went out and the chief made a dark drive home along Mercer Road at 1 a.m., using only a portable, hand-held light. Another time, at a fire, the radiator sprang a leak.
“We used water from the fire-trucks and made it back to town.” he says philosophically.
Chief Hulit is planning a letter to merchants asking contributions toward a replacement, perhaps through the Princeton Fire Department Equipment Fund, started by merchants after the Value Fair fire. He even has a wild idea that Borough Council might let the department put a new car in its capital replacement budget.
The bright red car -painted by John Clausen and J.B. Skillman-isn’t just to show off, although Chief Hulit regards it as good public relations, because it makes people aware of us.
It is actually a mobile command post at major fires. It holds vital equipment that used to be scattered in other fire vehicles.
For example, the chief now has in the car fire- extinguishers. air packs for fire-fighters, forcible entry tools, the heat scanner donated by Landau’s that detects hot spots in walls, maps of campuses, diagrams of large buildings and their alarm systems, the mutual-aid book with its lists of all the fire-fighting equipment in Mercer County.
Preventive maintenance is the only answer until the car can be replaced. Gratefully, Chief Hulit talks about local service stations who do repairs at cost or for nothing: fire company members who work on the aging car in spare time; Peter Hodge’s contribution of lettering for the car door. The Borough buys two tanks of gas each month.
Incidentally, along with the humiliation of failed inspection for -excessive smoke.” the car has still another: its flashing red lights, the pride and boast of any self- respecting Fire Chiefs car, are fading.
The red glow comes from red paint sprayed on the inside of a plastic shade. Red. of course, fades. So instead of a roaring fire-chief red. the flashing lights are now sort of -well, pink.