BAYTOWN, Texas — Old River-Winfree Volunteer Fire Chief Andy Malloy knows all too well the dangers that come along with fighting fires in tall buildings.
Unable to afford a ladder truck, his dedicated volunteer firefighters were forced to charge in on the ground floor, using stairways and ladders and tunneling techniques to try and effectively battle each blaze.
That changed last month when the department received a 100-foot ladder truck donated by Exxon Mobile and provided through the Texas A&M Forest Service Helping Hands program.
“Without the right vehicle, it’s very difficult to actually fight fires,” Malloy said, describing the danger his firefighters faced with each fire in a multistory building. “This truck drastically increases our firefighting capabilities.”
Created by the 75th Texas Legislature, Helping Hands matches donated firefighting equipment with volunteer departments in need. As part of the program, donors are relieved of any liability associated with the donated equipment.
Helping Hands Coordinator Jim Dunn said the program provides often-struggling volunteer fire departments with important, life-saving items — protective gear, emergency vehicles, tools and rescue equipment — to which they previously wouldn’t have had access.
“By partnering with companies, individuals and other fire departments, we’re able to provide these volunteer departments with a safe means of fighting fires,” Dunn said.
Since its inception in 1997, the program has received and distributed more than $18.5 million in donated equipment, including 265 vehicles and 5,184 breathing devices.
Malloy said he was “ecstatic” upon finding out his department would be receiving the truck from ExxonMobil.
The donation, the chief said, allows his department to fight fires — safely and effectively — in a wider variety of buildings, particularly the multi-story buildings that recently have been constructed in the area. The truck also helps them aid other volunteer departments in the area.
“We are one of nine other volunteer departments in the area and this donation is a huge help to us all,” Malloy said. “When one department has a low ability to respond, we’re now able to actually step up and help.”
For more information about the Helping Hands program and how to donate, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Helping Hands website: http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu/main/popup.aspx?id=9444.
Editor’s Note: Helping Hands needs SCBA air cylinders and breathing masks to help keep up with the demand from volunteer fire departments across the state.