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Retired fire engine off to Stevenson's old haunt
A retired 1985 Ceres fire tanker is being donated to the community of Rachel, Nevada for use there. Members of the Ceres City Council approved the donation on April 28.

The two communities have a special tie. The late Ceres Police Sgt. Howard Stevenson, who was killed in the line of duty on Jan. 9, 2006, often vacationed in Rachel, a town of about 85 persons north of Las Vegas. The town near the legendary Area 51 has a monument dedicated in Stevenson's memory.

Since the unincorporated town is trying to establish a volunteer fire department, Ceres was asked to donate Engine #23, which has no real monetary value to Ceres taxpayers. The donation made sense, said Public Safety Director Art deWerk, since the pumper is worth only about $10,000 to $20,000 but never generated any interested buyers. He said no neighboring volunteer agencies have wanted the Pierce Dash fire pumper, which has been sitting unused in the city's corporation yard since retirement in 2006.

The pumper no longer met Ceres' needs for several reasons, noted deWerk. The unit has no enclosed cab, is past its 20-year lifespan and has a pump rating of 1,250 gallons per minute when the city's new standard is 1,500. The engine does not qualify even as a secondary pumper.

"The engine runs but it's going to need a fair amount of work to make it operational," said deWerk of the pumper, which has 59,000 miles on it.

Stevenson's friend, Ron Richter, explained that they used to travel to Rachel in order to watch F-15s and F-22s based out of Nellis Air Force Base play war games in the red flag program.

After Stevenson was killed, half of his ashes were spread in the Rachel area. His ashes were also spread near the memorial grove at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park and a place off of Highway 108 where he liked to go hunting.

Last year when the towns people joined some of Stevenson's friends and fellow officers to erect a large metal cross in his memory, Richter noticed that Rachel had no fire protection. A 1960s model fire engine was obsolete because parts were not available, said Richter.

"They no longer have a volunteer fire department because they didn't have an engine," said Richter. "If they have a fire, it's hours to the next available volunteer fire department."

Richter said plans are being made to drive the tanker down to Rachel next month with expected fanfare there. Members of the Stevenson family are hoping to go along for the festivities, he said.

"Americans help out Americans," added Richter.

Rachel is so small that the owner of the local motel, Pat Travis Laudenklos, is acting on behalf of the the townsfolk.

Rachel is located on Highway 375, known as the Extraterrestrial Highway because of its close proximity to Area 51. The town gets lots of visitors from people interested in seeing the top-secret military base which has been the topic of significant speculation and alleged ties to flying saucers.

More information on Rachel is available online at