It was quite the occasion for Liberty Volunteer Fire Department members Wednesday evening when they gathered at the station to dedicate and celebrate the purchase of their new $56,000 brush truck.
Joining Liberty Fire Chief Jeff Brown and members Terry Hudson, Randy Fisher, Tom Sidel, J. E. Anderson and Dwight Dawson in their celebration were county leaders including chairman and ED-4 supervisor Dennis Witt, ED-7 supervisor Garland Ricketts, ED-1 representative J. T. Davis and ED-2 supervisor Jeff Francisco.
The new Ford F-150 model boasts extra suspension and a 250-gallon tank and pump specifically designed for fighting woods fires and brush fires, according to Monty G. Lowery, owner of General Fire Equipment, who built the skid unit and completely outfitted the truck for Liberty VFD.
“We kept the money in the county,” said Chief Brown, who noted the department used a $25,000 county capital improvement grant and two years worth of door-to-door donations to pay the remaining balance owed after grant monies were paid.
And the chief said he is happy to spend the county’s money with a local businessman.
“Monty told me he will work on any fire department stuff in the county at a reduced rate as he did for us on our new brush truck. He said it is his way of giving back to county people. We got a better skid unit at under the other place’s price,” Brown said referring to the outstanding job performed by employees of General Fire Equipment located in the Aarons Creek community and owned by the ED-7 school board member.
Lowery has spent more than a decade building this thriving business in Halifax County.
When starting his business, Lowery, a retired chief of Midway Volunteer Fire Department, said he identified a need for a specific kind of fire-fighting vehicle — a brush truck able to travel over rough terrain into what-used-to-be inaccessible spots and “just did it.
“Back then, there wasn’t one fire truck that could do the job in rough terrain,” he said.
Today, when wildfires are decimating forests across the country, chances are the front-liners beating back those flames are using one or more of Lowery’s brush trucks, the “General Fire Equipment, Inc.” logo painted on its side.
Back in 2016 when large wild land fires in California and Washington State were seen on TV, Lowery’s brush trucks were there working as much as two to three months around the clock on the front lines.
He also had two trucks on the large wild fire that burned in the Rocky Mountain area of North Carolina and Georgia that year.
In an interview with The Gazette in November 2016, Lowery said years of extreme off-road racing and a resulting hands-on expertise in suspension repair and fabrication gave him the edge he needed to run his manufacturing operation out of his own shop on 80 acres off Highway 58.
He and his employees start with a Ford or Dodge chassis and then build from the ground up to customer specifications, and his customer base, which already includes the military and fire departments across the country, is growing.
“People who see my trucks in action call and say, ‘We need a couple of those…,’” said Lowery. “The best marketing strategy we have,” added Lowery, “occurs when a future customer sees our product put to work.”
And he finds it important to work with local county fire departments in any way needed whether it is general maintenance, repairs or fabrication and outfitting to existing trucks.
“We always offer our services to them at a reduced rate. That is our way of giving back to our community, and these fine men and women need all the help they can get,” Lowery added.
The citizens of Halifax County are very fortunate, according to Lowery, to have such well-trained and dedicated volunteers sacrificing each and every day.
“My hat is off to each one of them. I strongly urge all citizens to step up and contribute something to their local fire department in some way on a yearly basis. If we all did this, what a huge impact it would be on all of our well-being,” said the ED-7 school board member who jumped into the junior firefighters at Midway VFD at 15.
“My mom and dad, Roy and Joyce Lowery, taught me at a very young age that I am entitled to nothing. If there is something I want, I will have to go out and work hard for it. The sky is the limit, and it’s up to me how high I want to go. The character and morals they instilled in me through my childhood have carried me a long ways, and for that I am grateful,” said Lowery.
“Most importantly, I give my Lord and Savior all the credit. He has given me a supportive and healthy family with the ability to build this company from the ground up. I am truly humbled and grateful for his many blessings. We will continue to put our trust in Him, work hard each and every day and see where He takes us,” Lowery concluded.