Backus Fire Department is growing

Department buys truck, constructs hub station in Ponto Lake Township

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Backus' new fire truck has space for five firefighters, almost doubling capacity of previous trucks. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

The Backus Fire Department is seeing growth on two fronts, including the purchase of an additional fire truck and the ongoing construction of a hub fire station in Ponto Lake Township called Ponto Lake Township Emergency Services Building and Town Hall.

The Backus City Council approved the truck purchase for $45,000 from Moose Lake Fire Department on Aug. 3. It is a 2002 Freightliner with 16,000 miles. The fire department was able to purchase the truck with cash directly from the department's truck fund. This will constitute not only an expansion of the department's equipment, but also an upgrade, as this will be the first truck with seating for more than three firefighters.

"It's got a five-person cab," said Fire Chief Jason Smith. "Four of them are air pack seats, which allows one or two guys to put on air packs as you are driving to the scene. It also has a different style of foam injection system."

The new truck will likely have Backus stickers on it within a week, though there has been a delay in receiving emergency equipment to stock it.

The truck will replace the department's red fire truck, 612, at the fire hall in town. The green truck, 611, technically the older truck, will remain in town with the new truck as it is equipped with most of the department's extraction equipment for car accidents. It also has the most storage space and is more versatile.


"That truck is a bit more universal when it comes to getting into smaller spaces and doing rescue," Smith said. "We wanted to keep that one in town. It's got more storage and it's got our new jaws (of life)."

The department is also watching for another water tanker truck.

"We're looking but we're not desperate," Smith said. "We're waiting for a good deal to come along and keeping an eye open without searching. FEMA grants are coming out and there are companies that are going to get awarded grants for trucks and they will sell their trucks after that, so we might wait until spring before we have one."

Fire truck 612 will move to the hub building once it is complete, as will one of the department's tanker trucks once the department is able to buy one. The department has members in Ponto Lake who will be able to respond more quickly with a stocked fire station there.

Since choosing to contract exclusively with the Backus Fire Department, Ponto Lake Township will be paying $12,000 toward the Backus Fire Department's truck fund annually. This is the amount that Ponto Lake Township formerly paid to the Pine River Fire Department to cover a portion of the township. This was part of the agreement when Ponto Lake Township asked Backus to take over the whole township and proposed the construction of an emergency services building.

"It doesn't take that much money to cover that many more square miles," Smith said. "They were willing to build a building, heat a building and support a building. In this case it's going to benefit the people there."

The 44- by 84-foot emergency services building is well under way. Aside from the fire department's use of the building during its 10-year contract, the building has no ties to the city of Backus. It is being constructed on property Deb and Mark Stanley donated to the township. Adjoining property, also donated by the Stanleys, has become the area helipad for medical extractions. It has been paid for using a variety of funding streams, including grants and donations.

Ponto Lake Township is also accepting donations to help fund the project further. More information can be found at under the "Town Hall and Emergency Services Building" tab in the menu. Donations can be submitted in person at regular board meetings at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month, or by mail sent to PO Box 678, Pine River, MN 56474.


Donations must be check, cashier's check or money order made out to Ponto Lake Township.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at

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The Ponto Lake Township Emergency Services Building and Town Hall has come a long way since spring, but there is still work to be done before it is ready to house a couple Backus Fire Department vehicles. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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