In an emotional ceremony Saturday, Woodlawn Fire Department dedicated its newest fire vehicle -- a 2012 Kubota RTV -- in memory of James "Pop" Haines, a former Woodlawn Assistant Fire Chief who died in July.
The red and black, four-seat special utility vehicle was purchased with a $40,000 donation from Haines' brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Gary and Anita Rathburn of Arizona. On its hood, it sports the name "Pop" Haines.
"My brother-in-law was one of the best guys I ever knew, so it's hard for me to talk about him," said Gary Rathburn, as he stood before the firefighters, family and friends who had gathered for the dedication. "All I'm going to say is, he'd appreciate this. We're glad we can do it for you guys. Remember him always."
Haines' grandson, Lt. Todd Fahringer, said the new vehicle will be made available to other police, fire and emergency personnel in Lehigh County. He said the vehicle enhances the fire company's ability to respond to emergencies, allowing firefighters to go off road and to get into tight spaces, whether for a search and rescue, for accessing a remote area or tackling a large spill. A spreader can be hitched to the vehicle.
Also, the utility vehicle's backseat folds down, allowing for the transport of patients on backboards.
Fahringer and Fire Chief Rusty Held joined in welcoming those who attended the ceremony, about 50 in all. Held presented the Rathburns with a plaque for the donation.
Prior to the ceremony, Fahringer said Woodlawn had tried to get grants, starting two years ago, to purchase the vehicle but were unable to secure them. After his grandfather died, he said, the Rathburns said they wanted to make a donation to the department and were open to ideas.
"We decided to go with this," he said.
After the plaque presentation, and with Fahringer behind the wheel, the Rathburns and Haines' widow, Lois, took a ceremonial first ride in the RTV into the parking lot.
Fahringer then backed up the vehicle to the firehouse, and as is customary when a department houses a new piece, fellow firefighters joined in pushing it into the firehouse.
In addition to being a former assistant fire chief at Woodlawn, James Haines had owned and operated Haines Exxon Service Center for 19 years.
A reception followed the dedication ceremony.