Volunteer fire departments receive more state funding

The Florence Volunteer Fire Department received a $118,000 grant to pay for a new truck to fight wildfires.

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — All the rain we’re seeing is causing brush to grow, which becomes fuel for fire once it dries out.

“After four-and-a-half to five inches of rain in the last month, we still can cause a grass fire,” explained Florence Volunteer Fire Chief Robert Shelton.

A grass fire in Williamson County only took Florence Volunteer firefighters a few minutes to put out Tuesday afternoon. A patch of scorched grass left behind is minor damage. But Florence is better prepared for any larger wildfires thanks to a new brush truck.

The Florence Volunteer Fire Department got a $118,000 grant from Texas A&M Forest Service to help pay for the $132,000 brush truck. The fire department pitched in the rest of the money.

The legislature gave more than $11 million back to the Forest Service last year, so the department can give out grants.

For Fiscal Year 2012, Texas A&M Forest Service had a budget of $23.2 million. That total was cut to just $7 million for the next to years. For FY2014, the state gave back some money, totaling $12.8 million, and for FY2016, the department now has $24.3 million.

Chief Shelton says their department relies on state funding, even more so now.

“We’re starting to see some rapid growth. There’s a lot of properties being developed for housing, so that call demand is going to come up,” says Shelton. “So that’s going to put more of a strain on the resources we have today.”

Chief Shelton says it took three years for them to get the grant money for the brush truck. He hopes as the county continues to grow, they won’t see anymore funding delays, so they can help protect the people of Williamson County.

Since Sept. 1, Texas A&M Forest Service has given out $17.8 million of the $24.3 million they’ve been given by the state. They will hold another meeting later this year to distribute the rest of the money.

The assistance program that helps Rural Volunteer Fire Departments in Texas is giving money to other departments in Central Texas.

Burnet Volunteer Fire Depatment is getting nearly $8,500, Thrall VFD is receiving $8,400, and McMahan VFD in Caldwell County is getting $15,000 for rescue equipment.

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