By Carol Taber
RALEIGH — It would be completely understandable if you had to stop your car and do a double-take while driving through the Riverside subdivision off Perry Creek Road in northern Raleigh. After all, it’s not every day that you see a home with its own shiny red fire engine.
The truck, a 1985 American LaFrance engine, belongs to Dwight and Crissy Jeckel. And no, they aren’t survivalists — or at least if they are, the fire engine has nothing to do with it. Rather, they are the owners of a unique entrepreneurial endeavor — the First-In Fire company.
The Jeckels picked up their beautiful engine while on vacation in New Hampshire in 2011. It originates from a fire station in Long Island, N.Y., and was decommissioned in 2009.
After they brought it home, they decided they didn’t want it to just sit around, but rather they could use it to share their passion for fire trucks and fire education.
So they started First-in Fire and take their engine to birthday parties, community events, grand openings, schools and basically anywhere a fire truck could go.
Crissy works with clients to customize parties to the participants’ age levels, number of children/adults and their interest levels.
The basic package starts at $235 for a 45- to 60-minute party visit. The kids (and adults) can climb all over the truck, use the hose, gear up and even take a ride on the truck.
Crissy says they can get 17 to 20 adults and kids on the truck at one time. Each participant gets a hat and a badge.
Add-ons include face painting, birthday cakes, goody bags, a popcorn machine, cotton candy or catering.
First-in Fire also offers fire truck rides for $100. Purchasers may use the ride themselves or donate the ride to children’s program winners, to a school award finalist, as a school raffle prize, as a fundraising incentive or as a charity auction item. Honestly, who would not bid on the chance to ride in a real fire truck?
Keeping it real
It is important to Crissy and Dwight that people, especially the kids who interact with them at parties and community events, have an authentic experience with a real firefighter. So their truck retains all the functions of a fire truck with a 500-gallon tank, a 1,500-gallon-per-minute Hale pump and all the bells and sirens a body could want.
The First-In Fire staff are also all firefighters from local departments, working either as professionals or in an active volunteer capacity.
Dwight, a veteran firefighter, has served as a lieutenant with the Wake-New Hope Fire Department for the past five years. Crissy is the current president for the Wake-New Hope Fire Department Auxiliary.
First-in Fire’s online community manager, Christopher Williams, is native to Wake Forest and his family has served the Raleigh-Wake Forest-Stony Hill communities for decades.
Christopher’s father, William Williams, was a Stony Hill Rural Fire Department volunteer for 39 years and a fireman for the city of Raleigh for 34 years.
He also served with the North Wake Rescue Squad. Christopher’s uncle, Jack Keeter, donated the land for what is now the Keeter Training Center in Raleigh.
All in the family
First-In Fire is a true mom-and-pop with all three of the Jeckel children actively involved.
Sixteen-year-old Ashley is a face-painting artist, 15-year-old Allie helps with the kids at parties and with cone wrangling. And 8-year-old Gavin just loves anything to do with firefighting.
This is one active family. When they’re not working or at school, they enjoy boating and being outdoors. Ashley is a long-distance runner and competitive horse jumper. Allie is a competitive tennis player and Gavin plays football.
In addition to her auxiliary duties and First-In Fire commitments (not to mention her role as Mom), Crissy runs her own eBay shop, Blueberry Hill Boutique. She also has a side business teaching others how to effectively run eBay shops.
Dwight and Crissy believe giving back to the community should be a priority.
They have generously — and quietly — donated the services of their truck to area children who love fire trucks but who face either health or economic challenges.
The 40,000-pound behemoth gets five miles to the gallon, “eight on a good day” says Crissy.
But the fire truck has been fueled by kindness as well as by diesel, she says. Crissy is getting ready, with her fire department auxiliary team, for a new fundraiser to provide financial support to firefighters and their families in times of crisis.
The auxiliary is also starting a bingo night at the fire station on the second Saturday of each month. The next bingo night is Sept. 13, from 5-8 p.m.
For more information on First-in Fire, see their Facebook page at facebook.com/firstinfirecompany.
-Contact Carol Taber at email@example.com