The Ballinger Fire Department continues to add to its arsenal of fire fighting and emergency response vehicles. Last year the Ballinger Fire Department added a ladder truck, Ladder One, that give the department a significant boost in responding to fires, particularly fires in communities throughout the county. Last week the fire department added a Ford F550 4WD extended cab truck, built to the fire department’s specifications, to its list of assets. The truck was one of two new trucks the fire department will receive via grants that were applied for under former city manager Tommy Turney.
Ballinger Volunteer Fire Department lieutenant Robert Langston commented on the new truck, "When we were first approached on our needs we talked about the possibility of having some hybrid apparatus. We really needed a heavy rescue unit that would take the place of a passenger van and hitch trailer that houses our vehicle extrication equipment as well as our rope rescue and water rescue equipment. We also wanted to be able to use it in town as a pumper, definitely not a standard truck. We were also looking for another hybrid light rescue/brush truck. The new trucks with new features and technology are much more efficient when it comes to personnel. With volunteerism in the fire service being where it is nowadays, at a low point, you really have to take any efficiency you can into play when designing or buying any product. Manpower is a luxury these days. These trucks come equipped with a joystick-controlled nozzle as well as automated front water sweeps, so while not suggested or recommended, you can almost run them with one person."
In 2019 a National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) report said that there was a reduction of firefighters across the United States. This included both volunteers and employed firefighters. The number of volunteer firefighters in 2016 and 2017 were the lowest on record since the NVFC started the survey in 1983. In 2017 there were a total of 686,600 volunteer firefighters in the nation. This was a drop off of over 200,000 firefighters from 1983, which had 884,600 fire fighters. It was also a drop off of 46,400 firefighters from 2016 (729,000) alone.
Another significant stat when it comes to volunteer firefighters in the age. According to that same NVFC report, 53% of volunteer fire fighters are over the age of 40. Additionally, firefighters over the age of 50 constitute 30.8% of the volunteer firefighters. Only 24% of fire fighters are under the age of 30. Only 26.3% of volunteer firefighters have 5 years of experience or less. The low numbers of volunteer firefighters and the lack of experience in many cases can be addressed with the addition of new and modern equipment.
For years the Ballinger Fire Department has used a van for their rescue operations. The van, which was a typical passenger van, was donated to the fire department with extensive work needed to modify it to meet the emergency needs of the department. Langston said that the new rescue unit will fit the needs of the fire department in an ever-developing field of firefighting and rescue operations, "We have a second set of extrication equipment that is stored on our primary pumper that needed a new home, so we figured this type of hybrid vehicle could be designed as well. Months went by and (then) city manager Tommy Turney notified us about an opportunity for a Texas Department of Agriculture FAST grant. He worked with a grant writer Jake McAdams with Public Management Company, with his submittal of the grant after the dust settled we found out we had been awarded a $500,000.00 grant. This is a new program and things like this don’t happen at the snap of a finger, especially this vision we had on these vehicles. We worked with two companies two see if this idea was even feasible. When the quotes were done we were able to make both trucks come to fruition with Steele Fire Apparatus out of Haskell Texas. Tommie Isbell Manufactures pretty much all but the chassis so whatever we threw at him was absorbed as no issue and was excited to move forward. The light rescue brush truck has been delivered and exceeded our expectations. The completion of the heavy rescue pumper unit will be late 2020 to first quarter of 2021. We will visit Steele's facility as many times as needed to inspect and approve its progress, but only expect two to three site visits. You can view the type 5 light rescue / brush truck in person at the Department, on the Ballinger Fire Department's Facebook page ,or many more photos on Steele Fire Apparatus LLC's Facebook page. The Ballinger Volunteer Fire Department would like to thank our city officials, Public Management Group, especially Jake McAdams, the Texas Department of Agriculture for the FAST grant opportunity, and all of our supporters near and far."
Some of the features of the new truck include: Heavy Duty, off-road suspension lift kit with heavy duty off-road shocks; Custom fabricated, heavy duty steel bumper and grille guard; Akron Forestry Monitor mounted on front bumper; Front bumper sweeps; Body custom fabricated and constructed out of steel; 28" X 102" walkway; 450-gallon water tank; 10-gallon integral foam tank; Hale HPX-200 KBD24 X-Stream, Electric Prim, Dual Control Panel Fire Pump; KBD24 Dual Control Panel System with Electric Throttle; Scotty "Around the Pump" foam system; Stainless Steel Plumbing system; Fire Pump Fuel System; Fire Com wireless intercom system - wireless base station, digital intercom radio, 3 radio transmitted headsets, and 3 headset hangers; Kussmaul Auto Charge 1000 Charging system; Rosco back-up camera with LCD monitor; Code 3 21TR full featured light bar with Torus LED technology; 12-Code 3 M180 warning lights.