The Houston Rural Fire Department's newly acquired tanker truck can rapidly empty its load of water into a holding tank from a device in its rear end in order to go after another load.

In its ongoing effort to provide top-notch firefighting services to its members and other Texas County residents within its range, the Houston Rural Fire Department has taken another step forward.

Using funds collected from membership dues, the department recently obtained an upgraded tanker truck. The vehicle is a 1995 E-1 with a Freightliner chassis, and replaces an older 1980s model. Having previously seen duty in the eastern United States, the truck was purchased from Firemaster in Springfield (a firm that deals in used firefighting vehicles), with the older model being used as a trade-in.

The upgrade features several improvements over the older unit.

While the old truck had a manual transmission, the new one is automatic. It has a four-door cab with seats that have room for breathing apparatus. It’s equipped with a 1,000-gallon tank, a 1,500 gallons-per-minute pump, a foam system, and an on-board generator for night lighting and other purposes.

“There are a lot of things about the truck that are an improvement over the old one,” Houston Rural Fire Association chief Don Gaston said. “One of the best things is the double-cab, which will allow our boys to warm up or cool down better – depending on the weather. And having the breathing apparatus fit in the seats makes it so they can get suited up on the way out.

“It’s going to be a big blessing to us, and something that’s really going to enhance the membership’s protection.”

Gaston said Houston Rural will likely add another “brush truck” in the near future (the smaller, more mobile variety that are often first on a scene and can go places larger vehicles can’t), but that board members agreed the tanker upgrade was currently a higher priority.

“They felt that with the age of the old truck, and the fact that the new one is automatic so it will be easier to drive, getting something with water on board and another foam system would be more beneficial at this time,” Gaston said. “This now gives us two excellent pumper trucks.”

Houston Rural currently has 25 volunteer firefighters on its roster, and a total of six trucks: three brush trucks, an “attack-1” mini-pump truck, and the two big tankers.

Gaston said he hopes members realize how much the addition of the new truck improves the department’s capability.

“Members should really feel a lot better about the protection they’ll receive,” he said. “We have enormous expenses right now, like insurance, workman’s compensation, fuel and everything else. But we’re putting as much of the members’ money as possible into improved equipment to help protect them.”

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