Beaufort News

Okatie company to give fire truck to Texas station destroyed by blaze

An Okatie fire truck company is helping a volunteer fire department in Texas rebuild after a fire wiped out its station and all of its equipment.

Palmetto Fire Apparatus, a fire truck sales and service center, will donate a used fire truck to the 356 Volunteer Fire Department in Trinity, Texas, whose headquarters was destroyed July 17.

The company decided to pitch in after seeing news reports of the damage, according to executive assistant Patrick Paulmeier.

The station and equipment, worth about $400,000, were not insured, according Regina Baker, who volunteers at the department as a first-responder, firefighter and secretary. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

The department's annual funding from Trinity County is about $5,300, she said.

"Our financial problem is, we are located in a rural community that is composed mostly of retirees on fixed income," Baker said. "We're just working people out here."

The department, made up of about 20 volunteers and first-responders, has been stretched especially thin this year. Its volunteers have fought wildfires for days at a time, including the "Bearing Fire" that burned about 18,200 acres and is the largest ever in east Texas, according to the Texas Forest Service.

Palmetto Fire Apparatus co-owner Hank Strickland said his company will send the fire truck, worth about $30,000, by tractor-trailer on Friday. He and his partner Nick Carmody will travel to Trinity on Sunday to present the gift to the fire department.

"This fire left the city of Trinity with no fire protection, no gear, nothing," Strickland said. "We've been very blessed, and we saw it as a good opportunity to step up."

Baker said the outpouring of support from fire departments locally and far away has been "just amazing." The volunteer department is currently housed in donated portable buildings and has received equipment and tanker trucks on loan, Baker said.

By Monday, the Trinity 356 Volunteer Fire Department will have a working fire truck for keeps. Palmetto Fire Apparatus has also asked local fire departments to donate spare firefighting equipment to fill up the truck. It has collected gear, helmets and fire hoses, Strickland said.

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