June 17--MCALLEN -- With Fire Chief Ralph Balderas behind the wheel again, the McAllen fire truck formerly called Engine 1 rumbled away from the Central Fire Station on Monday.
For Balderas and the aging fire truck, the afternoon drive marked a reunion of sorts. And a goodbye.
"Actually, this was my very first unit to be assigned to as a recruit firefighter," said Balderas, who joined the McAllen Fire Department in March 1993.
When Balderas started with the Fire Department, that truck -- manufactured in 1989 by the Smeal Fire Apparatus Co. of Snyder, Nebraska -- was called Engine 1 and based at the old Central Fire Station on Bicentennial Boulevard.
Two decades later, Balderas heads the Fire Department. McAllen built a new Central Fire Station on North 21st Street and demolished the old building. And the Fire Department simply doesn't have any use for the now nameless 25-year-old fire truck, with ripped red vinyl seats and 86,633 miles on the odometer.
Rather than discard the old-but-functional fire truck through an ignominious auction for surplus equipment, the City Commission donated the vehicle to Reynosa's municipal government instead.
"What we do with them is we typically auction them and get pennies for them," Balderas said. "Or we donate them to our sister cities."
Unlike the McAllen Fire Department, which deploys seven fire trucks citywide and maintains a four-unit reserve, Reynosa's municipal government owns just three fire trucks, which must protect a much larger city -- without relying on fire hydrants. Reynosa's newest fire truck was built in 1990, said Carlos Leal Lopez, who heads the Reynosa Office of Civil Protection.
"They don't quite have the budget that we do over here," said Mayor Jim Darling, adding that McAllen wouldn't have received much at auction. "We'd probably get a couple thousand dollars for it."
Rather than collect a pittance at auction, the City Commission decided to bolster Reynosa's tiny firefighting fleet, Darling said, and support the neighboring city.
So Balderas climbed behind the wheel again on Monday afternoon and took the now-decommissioned fire truck for a final drive with city Superintendent of Bridges Rigo Villarreal, who helped coordinate the donation.
With the windows rolled down and tiny fans battling the afternoon heat, the fire truck lumbered down the street, leaving the Central Fire Station forever. Balderas drove north on Bicentennial and east on Dove Avenue to Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, where they picked up Darling from work.
Then they headed to Reynosa.
Copyright 2014 - The Monitor, McAllen, Texas