Forest Service lends 'Helping Hands' to East Texas VFDs with retired fire equipment

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Volunteer fire departments across the state always struggle with limited budgets. That's why donated equipment offered through the Texas A&M Forest Service is so needed and appreciated.

So much more could be provided if private donors and businesses would extend "helping hands."

Assistant chief Bobby Cranford knows good and well the Fuller Springs Volunteer Fire Department can't afford this fire truck, but the department owns it thanks to the Helping Hands program.

"It's an awesome program," Cranford said. "In the past you've actually had government entities that would actually bury and destroy equipment that is perfectly good to use that because of liability reasons weren't able to give to fire departments that could use it."

State legislators released that liability in 1995. Government entities are required to retire certain equipment, even if it works. Helping Hands, a program administered by the Texas A&M Forest Service tries to put it to good use.

"We're trying to get the word out just as quickly and fast as we can, and we're starting to see more of an influx of requests coming in so we're getting there," said Jim Dunn, a Helping Hands program specialist with the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Private industry and individuals are now the targets for donations.

"There has been a lack of donations and what not," Dunn said. Probably again a lack of information."

Cranford said private business just doesn't realize a departments' meager budget can go so far.

"If you buy that new, it can run you anywhere from $1500 and up," Cranford said.

Private donors can consider monetary donations, but they may also donate needed tangible goods

"A lot of departments are starving to death for one ton, 4-wheel drive trucks for brush trucks," Cranford said.

No matter the donation, the partnership is vital to volunteer fire departments which can always use a helping hand. You can find out now to donate or receive items from the helping hands program by contacting the Texas A&M Forest Service in your area.

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