Brush truck purchased through a grant, donations

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Orange Grove Journal

The Sandia Volunteer Fire Department is known for being the group who lends a hand.

Along with their duties to the Sandia area, the firefighters answer the call for assistance from both Mathis FD and surrounding Jim Wells County when necessary.

This week, the SVFD took a big step forward in fighting fires with the addition of a new brush truck, purchased through a grant from the Texas Forest Service and with the fundraising assistance of the entire Sandia community.

Bill Steele delivered the large brush unit from Steele Fire Apparatus in Haskell, Texas. Steele took what was a Ford 750 fire truck from the Forest Service, and turned it into a powerful, modern firefighting brush truck. The truck cost $115,000, 90 percent of which was paid through the grant, with the department covering the rest through fundraising activities.

The truck, labeled Unit 5, is capable of holding three fire fighters in the cab of the truck, along with men up top to work the fire hoses.

There are four valves, one for each corner of the truck with two-inch hoses. Firefighters can maneuver from the top portion, opening valves at any of the four corners, depending on the direction of the truck or the fire. This ease of maneuverability with the 1,000-gallon truck will be a great benefit to the department, SVFD Chief Henry Barajas said.

"This truck is much more up-to-date than our other vehicles, and with the additional work done to it, it's equipped to fight fires much more efficiently," Barajas said.

"The tank it uses is a lot lighter than our other trucks, and although it's standard like the others, since it's in better condition, it will shift better than the older ones."

Barajas said that while fighting a fire, the department will be able to carry more firefighters with the vehicle and will better be able to observe the men on the ground from up top. He pointed out the department is situated, not only to help the residents of Sandia, but also lend their assistance in an emergency to departments throughout Jim Wells and San Patricio counties.

"The truck has the ability, not only to fight brush fires, but it can also be effective against house fires and vehicle fires in our area," Barajas said.

He hopes that with the addition of the new truck, the community will continue to get behind their local fire department, and that they'll see an increase in the number of volunteers.

"When they see the fire department program growing, it's something the community really gets behind. It piques their interest and encourages them to get involved," Barajas said.

Eight years ago, the department had only four members, Barajas said. The group is now 15 members strong and growing.

"It's been a big improvement, and hopefully with this truck, we'll get a lot more interest in it," Barajas said.