LUBBOCK, Texas — Fire departments across the south plains often have to be creative when it comes to funding their departments and getting all the equipment needed, and that’s exactly what the West Carlisle Volunteer Fire Department has been doing.
Firemen at the department are currently building a grass fire truck, expected to hold 1300 gallons of water. As labor intensive as it may be, it’s actually not the first fire truck the department has built.
“I think our first one we built was in 90, 93. and we bought a chassis, found an old tank, and put it on there. Since that time, we’ve really refined how we do things and put out a really decent fire truck,” said Tim Smith, Fire Chief for the fire department.
The firefighters have put in roughly over 300 to 500 hours of labor so far, but still not counting labor in ten previous trucks the department has built over the past 30 years.
“This one was an older one of our retired vehicles. As they get a little older, they don’t have many miles on them, but they have a lot of hours. And so, the maintenance starts creeping up, the maintenance costs start creeping up. So, we find one to roll those out and replace those as needed,” said Smith.
Not only are the firemen battling flames and maintenance, but they are working against a limited budget from the county. They were able to receive a $100,000 grant from the Texas Fire Service Grant Program to purchase a frame for the truck, the grant taking about five years for the department to get.
“We would love to just call up the manufacturer and put an order in, but the funds just don’t allow it. The Lubbock County commissioners have done an amazing job in the last two to three years in helping increase our funding and get us where we need to be to get our guys the equipment and the tools to do their job and to get them home after every call. So, we try to do our part. Put back into this a little bit, and we build these trucks ourselves and put them in service,” said Smith.
The firemen have even taught themselves how to build the trucks, using their unique skills to work and even learning some along the way.
“The hardest part is just the time that it takes, the time that it takes away from our families to come up here and work on it, not to mention still responding to calls,” said Kevin Henricks, Assistant Fire Chief for the West Carlisle Volunteer Fire Department. Henricks has so far helped to put together about 4 fire trucks.
Despite the hard work, the firefighters say it’s all rewarding in the end.
“To me, it’s seeing it leave the station for the first time, seeing the guys get in and drive it and that’s really when everybody appreciates the work that went into it, whenever it’s ready to go on that first call,” said Henricks.