New York Department Donates Fire Truck to Texas Town

SAN LEON, Texas -- Talk about mutual aid.

Residents are doing a double-take when they see the bright yellow engine responding to emergencies here these days. In addition to the color, it's the department name on it that's turning heads.

The 1981 Mack is from Point Lookout-Lido Fire Department.

Until recently, firefighters in San Leon had never heard of Point Lookout, N.Y. Now, they've developed a friendship.

Ike robbed San Leon of its fire station, a pumper, brush truck and equipment. Some of the volunteers lost their houses.

When a New York volunteer firefighter heard about the department's dilemma, his company stepped up.

"We had planned to donate a truck to a Mississippi department last year. But, we never found one that needed it," said Denis Collins, former chief at Point Lookout-Lido.

San Leon Assistant Chief Scott Lyons said the ball started rolling after an article about their plight appeared on Firehouse.com.

Collins said he got a call from a fire official in Mississippi telling him that a department in Texas needed an engine if they still were willing to donate.

"I told him we'd be happy to send it," he said in a telephone interview Thursday.

But, Collins and Lyons soon discovered there would be a few details to work out. In addition to the paperwork, how would they get a 1,000 gpm engine from New York to Texas?

"Our local ABC TV station got involved to help," Lyons said. "They were a big help."

Meanwhile, Collins was busy working things out in his neck of the woods. When the train left the station without the engine, the New York firefighters went to Plan B.

"We made some contacts, and got it on a flatbed. It left last week," he said with a laugh. "It's networking ..."

San Leon firefighters wasted no time once the engine arrived. "I put it in service last night."

The engine came stocked with hoses, nozzles and other equipment. Collins said his department switched to yellow for a while for safety reasons. "We run a lot of wrecks on the highway at night. But, we eventually went back to red and white."

Lyons says they don't care what color it is.

Calls have increased on the peninsula since Ike's visit in September. "We usually run about 700 a year. This year, we'll run about 900 to 1,000."

And, they're responding to those calls with fewer people. Before Ike, there were 22 volunteers. Now, there are 15.

The fire station also was lost to Mother Nature's fury. Equipment has been kept under a canopy at the water office.

The engine will be housed now at the Bacliff Fire Department nearby until their new station is built.

Collins is headed to San Leon, possibly this weekend, to meet the engine's new owners. "I want to go over it with them. I'm glad we could help them out..."

Lyons said his crew is anxious to meet the generous chief from New York.

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