Fire, rescue and rapid response vehicle needed
By Deb Silverthorn
Gary Ravitsky and Jesse Marroquin, Jr. hope they can provide Israel’s Eshkol Regional Council with a much-needed brush truck as a gift. The fire truck, made by Marroquin, Jr.’s Skeeter Brush Trucks, is available to be shipped immediately — but there’s a nearly $385,000 price tag, which Ravitsky hopes will be covered by the Dallas Jewish community.
The Eshkol Region covers 760,000 acres. It is located in the northwestern Negev between Ashkelon and Beersheva and shares borders with the Gaza Strip and Egypt. It is home to 14 kibbutzim, 15 moshavim and three other communities, many of which were attacked on Oct. 7. Many of its residents were murdered or are missing among the hostages. Many of its properties burned to the ground.
“A contribution of our people, to our people, will make a significant difference in ensuring the safety of these communities,” said Ravitsky, CEO of Ameritube. His company is based in Hillsboro. Ameritube’s plant is located next door to that of Skeeter Brush Trucks at Siddons-Martin Emergency Group. He and Marroquin have been acquainted through the years. After Ravitsky received notice from a partner in Israel of the dire need for such a fire truck, he called on his neighbor.
“Gadi Yarkoni, the mayor of the Eshkol Regional Council, sent out a letter noting that, since Oct. 7, there has been an increase in fire terrorism, incendiary balloons, kites and incoming rockets, causing uncontrollable fire and destruction and resulting in over 60 fires per day,” said Ravitsky. “Mayor Yarkoni wrote that many of the fires are close to the border in zones usually restricted to army personnel. In addition to the speed that it can travel, this vehicle is safer against the anti-tank missiles fired from Gaza.”
Money raised will pay for the vehicle, shipping and licensing, regulation and upkeep for a number of years.
“We are working with Menachem Burla, fire and rescue equipment manager of Scope Metals Group, the Israeli company that will import, maintain and service the vehicle. I want to make this happen and I believe in our Dallas community can make it happen,” said Ravitsky.
Typically, a brush truck ordered today could take three to five years to produce and deliver. The model available was a demonstration unit; while they could sell it immediately to any of many U.S. fire departments, Skeeter wants to help the Eshkol Region, roughly 7,168 miles to the east.
“It’s not common for us to have a vehicle on-site. We have to act quickly. The backlog from the pandemic is significant and the demand is high,” said Marroquin, Skeeter’s executive vice president.
“Israel is important to us, this cause is important to us and we want to help so we’re holding this one as long as possible, but it’s ready to ship out tomorrow,” Marroquin added.
TheFord F-550, two-axle drive 4×4 with dual rear wheels, four-door chassis, heavy-duty off-road shocks, a 40-gallon fuel tank and a 400-gallon capacity water tank, is designed to significantly increase wheel travel and provide increased ground clearance in challenging terrain.
Now using an ATV with water buckets towed from its rear, the brush truck was built with the capability to navigate the area’s sandy and challenging terrain, allowing the Eshkol Region’s fire department to respond to fires more rapidly while conserving water, foam and human resources. Its efficiency in desert conditions and ease of access would greatly enhance the handling of simultaneous fires and ability to reach remote areas much faster.
“This area has, for years, been bombarded with mortar blasts, rockets and other attacks,” said Burla. “They needed it before and they need it now so desperately.”
Skeeter, which has many of its trucks already on order with new requests made regularly, said they can hold the truck available until January. While the Eshkol Regional Council appreciates their respect and the hold, they need the truck now.
“This area is called the ‘Gaza Envelope’ because of our borders, with so much loss and still a month later 16,000 of our 17,500 residents evacuated,” said Carey-Lee Tal, resources coordinator at the regional council, speaking from a hotel to which she and many area residents were evacuated. “And this is where 70% of all of Israel’s fresh produce and wheat fields are. Their aim is to burn the majority of the country’s food sources. Right now, there’s a shortage of equipment and we’re supplementing with ATVs pulling trailers to get the fires out.”
Captain David W. is Jewish and a 17-year veteran of Dallas Fire Rescue. (His last name is withheld due to security concerns.) He says the value and need of the custom-fabricated severe-service rescue-squad-type vehicle cannot be overstated.
“I know this area well. Eshkol is a highly agricultural and predominantly rural area and access and proximity matter. Seconds matter because a fire doubles in size every 30 seconds,” said the Dallas native, who has lived in Israel. “The design of this rig is done in a way that not only focuses on fire suppression but has the capability to operate as a technical rescue vehicle. In rural areas, like Eshkol, farming or vehicle accidents are not uncommon and this rig is able to serve those emergencies as well. This is much faster and more efficient than anything they already have. The objective is important.”
Three years ago, a model similar to the prospective brush truck was sent to Israel to test. While it was impressive, ultimately the cost was prohibitive. The 2023 model is further enhanced, and cost is still an issue. However, Ravitsky believes North Texans will come through and time is of the essence.
“We want to do the right thing,” said Ravitsky, who has coordinated with Congregation Shaare Tefilla’s Rabbi Ariel Rackovsky to collect donations through the Rabbi’s Charitable Fund. “If a brush truck is what they need, let’s get them the brush truck.”
To make a donation for the brush truck for the Eshkol Regional Council, visit the Rabbi’s Charitable Fund of Congregation Shaare Tefilla at shaaretefilla.org/form/