The Forest Grove Volunteer Fire Department honoured a fallen teammate Saturday with the first annual Neil Hodge Memorial Car Wash.
Hodge was a longtime member of the fire department known for his kindness and willingness to help those in need. After Hodge lost his battle with cancer earlier this month, fire chief Michelle Meeker said the department wanted to organize an event in his memory.
“As a fallen member of our fire department and a brother we thought we’d start with a car wash, try to make it an annual event and hopefully build from the fundraising portion,” Meeker said. “Maybe we can get scholarships going, that’s the plan.”
Meeker said that Hodge would love having the car wash named after him and would have been gung-ho about participating himself. She said he was a soft-spoken man who had a wicked sense of humour, was genuinely kind to others and always willing to lend a hand wherever it was needed.
Firefighter Andy Hird, who joined the force three years ago to give back to the community, said naming the car wash after Hodge was fitting. The two of them worked together at the department’s Canim Lake Hall and responded to several calls together.
“I didn’t know him outside the fire department but he was very professional and dedicated,” Hird said. “When the opportunity came he had a good sense of humour, he was a good lad.”
Taking part in the car wash itself was fun, Hird said, noting the volunteers were all socializing and having a good time.
Meeker described their set-up as a “redneck car wash” which has worked well for the department’s previous fundraisers. Members of the department soaped up every vehicle that came through before they drove through jets of water rigged between two of the department’s fire trucks. As their cars air dried, attendees were invited to enjoy some freshly grilled hot dogs with the department.
During the car wash, Meeker said they had around 60 cars drive through their car wash and raised $2,593. The money will be held in trust until the department decides how best to use it, she said.
The department also used Saturday as a chance to introduce their new fire truck, Engine 11, to the public. Meeker said Engine 11 just happened to arrive last week and is a much-needed addition to the hall. The truck it replaced had to be pulled from service due to excessive leaking.
“This is the Forest Grove and Canim Lake area’s tax dollars at work,” Meeker said. “We haven’t even put all of our stuff into her yet but we’re already breaking her in. We can take more people, it’s got air conditioning for the summertime which will be wonderful. It’s just great news to have it physically here.”
Engine 11 has a tandem axle, a Freightliner chassis, a powerful engine and can hold up to 2,000 gallons of water with a bladder capable of holding an additional 2,500. Meeker said the truck can be used as a fire truck and a tender giving them more flexibility in fighting fires.
“It makes our life a lot easier because all of our equipment will already be on it. We can respond with this truck separately which is great because it frees up other trucks,” Meeker said.