Rural wildfires in Montague County have a formidable new foe, thanks to a grant from the Texas A&M Forest Service.
The Nocona Rural Volunteer Fire Department has purchased a state-of-the-art, high capacity brush truck, using a $200,000 bonanza from the forest service’s Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program. The grant is twice the department’s annual operating budget of $100,000, Nocona Rural VFD Assistant Fire Chief Rusty Henley said.
The new truck is a 2016 Ford F750 four-wheel-drive with an 850-gallon water tank, which will replace a 20-year-old vehicle with a 200-gallon tank.
“We are a rural department, so the 850-gallon water tank is important when there are no fire hydrants around,” Henley said. The department uses water from the Nocona municipal supply, requiring a trip back to town to refill.
“With our old truck, we had to return to our water source to refill the small tank,” Henley said. “It can mean the difference between a 30-minute fire or a three-hour fire.”
The remote-operated turret mounted on the front bumper can be operated from inside the truck cab and can rotate 185 degrees horizontally and 20 degrees vertically. This allows for a quick knockdown of the fire using minimal water, improves safety and also allows the department to fight fires with fewer firefighters.
As most volunteer firefighters have primary jobs away from the fire department, it can be hard to gauge how many will be available when a fire strikes. “We never know if we will have one volunteer or 15 volunteers show up when the call goes out,” Henley said.
Nocona Rural VFD, established in 1971, has 40 volunteers that serve approximately 7,500 people over 256 square miles of predominately agricultural land in Montague County.
“Our most common fires are wildland fires,” Henley said. “This new truck was sent out on its first call 15 minutes after we put it into service, and it has made at least five wildland fire calls since then.”
The Nocona Rural VFD was required to cover a $22,000 match to the grant, $10,000 of which was supplied by the Wichita Falls Area Community Foundation. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without them,” Henley said.