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Hartselle Enquirer

Million-dollar surprise

By Staff
California movie producer with love for fire departments donating two new trucks to city
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Wayne Heyman-Hanks, a successful Hollywood movie producer with roots in Alabama, has agreed to give Hartselle Fire Department two new pumpers valued at $1.1 million if the city hires three additional firefighters and meets certain other requirements.
Fire Chief Steve Shelton said the offer was discussed by the city council at its last work session.
"They were receptive and asked me to come back with a report on the department's current overtime requirement," he said. "I have a proposed legal document in hand. All it needs is the signatures of myself and the mayor to make the offer binding."
Shelton said in order for the city to meet the conditions of Heyman-Hanks' offer it would have to employ three additional certified firefighters, including one with EMT certification.
"We meet all other requirements, thanks to improvements that have been made in the department over the past two or three years," he said.
"We are currently undermanned based on National Fire Protection Association recommendations," Shelton stated. "Three more firefighters would increase the department's salary line item by about $108,000 per year."
He said the city's front line pumpers are 1987 and 1991 models. One has a water pump leak and the other one has an engine oil leak. A pumper's lifespan on average is 15 to 20 years.
The advantages of the city having three more firefighters and two new pumpers include the potential of qualifying for a better rating from ISO, lower maintenance costs, reduced overtime and better morale, Shelton said.
Shelton said he learned about Heyman-Hanks' offer in late January after he was appointed but before he assumed office. Heyman-Hanks' grew up in the Jefferson and Blount County area where his parents and other relatives still reside.
As a boy, he had the opportunity to observe first hand the operations of a volunteer fire department and developed a close identity with firefighters. He moved to Los Angeles as a young man and, at age 42, has achieved great success as a movie maker and CEO of Light Force Productions. He said some people who are well off financially choose to build libraries or add wings to hospitals but his passion is to help under-paid, under-equipped and under-manned fire departments in his home state.
"He knew a lot about Hartselle and its fire department," Shelton pointed out. "I have since learned that he has made similar offers to several other small North Alabama cities."
Shelton said he and two members of his department are scheduled to make an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles in July to meet Herman-Hanks and his staff and tour an American LaFrance fire equipment manufacturing plant.
He said an American LaFrance plant in South Carolina will receive an order at that time to build Hartselle's new pumpers. They should be delivered prior to Christmas.
Hartselle could also benefit more from Heyman-Hanks generosity down the road, according to Shelton. "He told me if we comply with his requirements on the pumpers, he will take another look at our needs in two or three years and consider helping us build a third fire station,"
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime golden opportunity." said Shelton "I could never have imagined that something like this would fall into the fire department's lap."