MILFORD — The Milford Volunteer Fire Department has added another resource to aid in their mission of protecting lives and property. A grant from the Texas A&M Forest Service’s Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program allowed Milford VFD to convert a military vehicle into a multi-purpose firefighting apparatus.

Milford VFD received a surplus Stewart Stevenson 2.5-ton cargo truck through the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Firefighter Property Program managed by the U.S. Forest Service and administered by Texas A&M Forest Service.

According to the U.S. Forest Service website, the Firefighter Property program refers to one of the special programs of the DOD where firefighters can obtain surplus departmental property to be used for firefighting and emergency services. Assets are received from this program after they have been in use for a specified period of time.

A $20,000 grant from Texas A&M Forest Service funded the purchase of a slip-on unit that was installed on the truck.

“The Texas Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program provides funding to rural volunteer fire departments for the acquisition of firefighting vehicles, fire and rescue equipment, protective clothing, dry-hydrants, computer systems and firefighter training,” the Texas A&M Forest Service website stated. “It is a cost-share program funded by the Texas State Legislature.”

The slip-on unit is a self-contained firefighting apparatus used as a fast attack piece of equipment.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture and Forest Service Fire Engine Specifications report from February 2016, a self-contained slip-on firefighting unit consists of a water storage tank, auxiliary engine-driven centrifugal pump, fuel cell, hose reel and control panel. The slip-on is mounted to a utility, platform or pickup bed.

“The truck will be used for wildland fires, high-water rescues and traffic control for vehicle accidents on I-35,” Milford Volunteer Fire Chief Mark Jackson said in a release from the Forest Service. “The new slip-on unit has a 750-gallon water tank so the truck can also transport water to the rural areas that do not have access to a water supply in case of a structure fire or during mutual aid.”

Jackson, who also serves as the Milford Independent School District’s vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor, said volunteers did the conversion along with students from the Milford agriculture class.

“The students were excited to contribute to the community and learn new skills while helping with the truck transformation,” Jackson stated in the release. “The vehicle was painted a non-military color and reconfigured to accommodate a new slip-on unit.”

Jackson said the department’s protection area covers 54 square miles and consists of farmland, wooded areas with rough terrain and a portion of Interstate Highway 35E.

According to the City of Milford’s website, the department is made up of 12 volunteers that serve a community of 1,200 residents in Ellis and Northern Hill Counties. Its coverage area includes I-35E, U.S. Highway 77, Farm-to-Market Road 308 and several major pipelines throughout the area. The department also has several mutual aid agreements. Some of the agreements are with the Italy, Avalon, Forreston, Mertens, Hillsboro and Itasca Fire Departments. It also assists the Texas Forest Service on wildland emergencies.

The department has open enrollment for dedicated volunteers that would like to serve their community. Anyone wanting to apply may do so by attending a meeting at the fire station the second and fourth Monday of every month at 7 p.m. The fire station is located at 104 E. Crossmain St. in Milford.

Questions about becoming a volunteer can be directed to Jackson by email at mark.jackson@cityofmilfordtx.com. More information about the Texas A&M Forest Service can be found by going to its website at www.texasfd.com.