TELICO — The Telico Volunteer Fire Department has added a new member to its department in the form of a tool to combat grass fires.

The department was able to purchase a new heavy-duty brush truck through a $218,000 grant received from the Texas A&M Forest Service’s Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program.

“This new 2016 upgrade is replacing a 1982 Ford that was originally built by another fire department. The older truck served us well but it was time for it to retire,” Telico Fire Chief Van Fowler said in a Forrest Service press release. “The new large brush truck will be a multipurpose vehicle. It has updated equipment that will save us time and give the department a better option when protecting our community as well as mutual aid response.”

Fowler said the brush truck was built by Westex Welding and delivered to the department at the end of January. The vehicle is built on a four-wheel drive chassis and uses both water and a compressed air foam system to fight fires. It also features a front bumper cab operated nozzle and a 16,000-pound winch.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, compressed air foam used for firefighting involves applying a solution of water class A foam concentrate in a mixture with compressed air control to extinguish a fire.

“This truck will give us an advantage when responding to large fires because it takes less manpower to operate,” said Fowler in the release. “Manpower is a premium, especially during the day when there is usually a smaller crew available because people are at their full-time jobs.”

Fowler said the grant Telico received from the Texas Forest Service is a cost-share grant.

According to the Forrest Service website, the Texas Rural VFD Assistance Program provides funding to rural VFDs for the acquisition of firefighting vehicles, fire and rescue equipment, protective clothing, dry-hydrants, computer systems and firefighter training. It is a cost-share program funded by the Texas State Legislature. To be eligible for the program departments have to be recognized as non-profit volunteer fire department that is operated by its members. Also, any part-paid, part volunteer fire departments with 20 or fewer paid members are eligible.

“The Texas Forrest Service and their grant program enable all of the small fire departments to be able to do a better job in protecting their communities because there is not any way that we could afford $250,000 truck. We have a hard enough time just trying to raise enough money to buy the insurance and the fuel and that kind of thing that it takes to operate. So when the Forrest service grants funds to be able to buy equipment it really helps our situation,” Fowler said. “We would not have near the equipment if it were not for the grant program (like) the state program (with) the Texas Forest Service or the federal programs like the Federal Emergency Management Agency grants. Anytime that we can apply for any type of grant, we try to. We don’t get all of them of course. But we do try to apply. Without the grants, we would not have the equipment that we would not have.”

Fowler said this is not the first time the department has been awarded a grant. They received a grant from the Texas Forest Service in 2004 for a tanker pumper, and in 2008 they were awarded a FEMA grant for a fire engine.

Fowler said small departments like Telico usually are not part of a fire district nor do they receive county funding to update equipment. Having the grant program available helps the departments acquire the tools needed to save lives and property, he said.

The Telico Volunteer Fire Department was founded in 1967 and provides fire protection for 97 square miles in the southeastern portion of Ellis County with 15-18 firefighters serving at the department. People who are interested in becoming a volunteer the department holds a meeting at 8 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the fire station. The fire station is located at 8527 Farm-to-Market Road 1181 in Telico.

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