The new tiller truck in Buccaneer colors will hit the Tampa streets after the fire rescue workers are trained to operate it
Teamwork. Preparation. Communication. Speed.
Keys to a Tampa Bay Buccaneers victory on any given Sunday? Indeed, but those concepts happen to be crucial components of a successful firefighting operation, as well.
And on Monday morning, Tampa Fire Rescue and the Buccaneers gained something else in common, as two new fire trucks painted prominently in the hometown team's colors were unveiled.
Former Buccaneer defensive end John Cannon, who spent his entire nine-year career (1982-1990) in Tampa Bay and is now a Tampa firefighter and paramedic, was on hand with several fire department staff officers and the trucks' crews at One Buc Place to show off the new vehicles.
A large ladder truck, or tiller, was parked in front of the football-shaped entryway to One Buc Place decked out in pewter and red paint with "Tampa Fire Rescue" spelled out in the Buccaneers' font on its side. In addition, a smaller pumper truck was parked nearby with a similar design.
For Cannon, the opportunity to serve the community in a Buccaneers-themed fire truck has brought his professional life full circle. After spending 10 years as a financial planner following the end of his playing days, Cannon was lured into his next career as a firefighter by some of the same characteristics that had attracted him to football.
"The thing that I really enjoy about the fire service is it's a chance to bring physical skills together with mental abilities," Cannon said. "It's a challenge to do that in the heat of battle in an emergency and administer live-saving measures at a split second's notice. It kind of brings together both the physical and mental, which I enjoy, given my background as a football player. And the camaraderie – it's an extension of a football locker room. I work with a great bunch of guys. You're constantly learning, and it's all about teamwork."
While Cannon's occupational goals may have shifted from sacking the opposing quarterback to saving someone's life, one thing hasn't changed – the preparation necessary to be successful.
"We don't get as many fires as we used to here in Tampa, but when we do have one, we have to be prepared, just like preparing for a game," Cannon said. "[In the NFL], guys come in on Wednesday, work hard Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, then suit it up on Sunday. But we're training every single day, because we never know when we're going to get that call to a big fire or a big rescue."
And with two brand-new fire trucks to work with, Tampa Fire Rescue's preparation will be put into action like never before.
The two trucks were custom-made by Pierce Manufacturing, a company specializing in fire and rescue vehicles. The large tiller truck, which requires a firefighter to steer both the front and rear sections and features a 100-foot long ladder, cost nearly $900,000 to produce. The smaller pumper truck, which supplies water to the tiller truck at a rate of 1,500 gallons per minute, cost about $400,000. But Don Bouwer, a dealer with Pierce who was instrumental in the trucks' construction, said that while the pewter-and-red paint jobs inspired a nice visual connection with the Tampa area, the trucks were also built to serve a purpose in the community.
"We know the needs of Tampa," Bouwer said. "They needed something that was very maneuverable in the older sections of town that have the high-rise buildings. By [the tiller] being able to steer in the front and in the back, it can get places where other trucks can't."
There were a few roadblocks on the path to the trucks coming into existence, however. Bouwer laughed when telling the story of the trucks' construction, which was actually left in the hands of some ardent fans of a different NFL franchise.
"It was interesting, because they were built in Appleton, Wisconsin, which is 30 miles from Green Bay," Bouwer said. "So all the people building these trucks were Packers fans, and we were having so much fun with it. They were planning to sabotage it and everything else. They were like, 'Why can't the Packers do that?'"
The Buccaneers-themed fire trucks became a one-of-a-kind creation when they rolled off the assembly line. No other fire department in the country has fire trucks painted to match their local NFL team, according to Bouwer.
"Years ago, Pittsburgh did some yellow and black [fire trucks], but it's probably been 25 or 30 years ago," Bouwer said. "So this is really the first one."
Tampa Fire Rescue is currently training the firefighters who will be assigned to the new vehicles. Cannon said it would be some time before the trucks were actually put into service, but he looked forward to the response from the community.
"There's quite a bit of training that needs to be done on them," Cannon said. "We need to be fully trained and pass a battery of exams before they can actually put the vehicles in service. I'm not sure how long that's going to be. There are two drivers on a tiller, and there's a lot communication and a lot of teamwork involved. It takes a lot of practice. Right now we're just practicing in a big parking lot.
"But it was kind of neat to finally see it out on the road," Cannon continued. "When we parked them at the station to clean them up a bit, quite a few people walking by stopped to take notice of it. They definitely stand out and I think the Buccaneers colors really bring more notice to it than it would normally get."
Matching colors aside, Cannon said he also felt the Buccaneers-themed fire trucks served a bigger purpose in the Tampa area.
"I think they look great, and it's a tribute to the city of Tampa," Cannon said. "The Buccaneers are an important part of this community, as is the Tampa Fire Rescue, so it brings the two together very nicely. It's an honor for us, and hopefully it's an honor for the Buccaneers as well that we share the same colors."