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Merced County gets five new fire engines

Five brand new state-of-the-art fire engines will begin serving Merced County in the coming weeks.

County leaders gathered Tuesday to dedicate the two that are ready for use. They'll serve the communities of Delhi and Snelling. The remaining three will be operational by next month at stations in Gustine, Winton and Hilmar, said Dale Hutchinson, Cal Fire unit chief for Merced, Mariposa and Madera.

"They're a fantastic investment for the community," Hutchinson said. "They'll improve safety both for our residents and for our firefighters."

The engines are the first the county has bought in two years. Made by a Nebraska-based builder called Smeal Fire Apparatus Co., each engine cost roughly $357,000, the county said in a statement announcing the purchase.

The shiny white engines are expected to stay in service for at least two decades.

They feature the best breaking system on the market, 700-gallon water tanks and 400-horsepower engines, Hutchinson said. Their fully enclosed, air-conditioned cabs are big enough to accommodate six firefighters.

Local fire officials spent the last six months or so customizing and equipping the engines, said Scott Newman, Merced County's fire chief. "A lot goes into getting them ready to respond to fires and emergencies, so we're excited to have reached this point," Newman said after the dedication ceremony.

In all, Merced County owns 26 fire engines, one for each of its 20 stations, plus six reserve engines.

Reporter Corinne Reilly can be reached at (209)385-2477 or