The Aspen Fire Protection District celebrated the arrival of two new fire engines with a traditional “wetdown” ceremony Saturday at its fire station in downtown Aspen.
The tradition dates to the 1800s when horses would pull the apparatus, or pumpers, to fires and then people would push the apparatus back into its bay for cleaning.
In more modern times, the wetdowns — held mostly by volunteer fire departments such as Aspen’s — ceremonially put new engines into service. Aspen Fire Chief Rick Balentine led Saturday’s free community event, which included a traditional truck blessing from Father Darrick Leier of St. Mary Catholic Church in Aspen.
The two new Aspen fire engines were purchased as part of a 2018 mill levy that raised property taxes and provided an additional $3.3 million annually to the Aspen Fire Protection District.
“It allowed Aspen Fire the funding desperately needed to upgrade and maintain our fleet,” Balentine said during his intro, “to help ensure that our fire department has the most up-to-date and response-worthy apparatus and equipment possible for every type of emergency … to proudly serve our community.”
The main act of the wetdown is the first wash, when the retiring fire engines spray the new engines with water. Members of the Aspen community, notably children, were allowed to help hold the hoses.
Afterward, everyone came together to push the new engines into their waiting bays and helped dry them off with commemorative towels handed out by the Aspen firefighters.
The ceremony was capped off with a free community lunch and tours of the new fire engines.