By Kristine Favreau
Killeen Daily Herald
KEMPNER – For a fire department that continues to prove itself through tenacity and dedication, years of hard work and focus have finally come to fruition.
For the first time, the Kempner Volunteer Fire Department will be able to answer a fire call in a brand-new truck, thanks to a $273,125 grant from the 2006 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
"This truck is the first new one we've ever had. I'm sure it will get washed and waxed a hundred times," said Kempner Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dan Hause. "First of all, it will probably make it to fires, and second, it will probably work when it gets there. That's new for us."
Founded in 1971, the department started with a single used fire truck that, according to Judge Walter Prugh, either worked or didn't depending on the day. Then the county purchased another used fire truck for $3,000. The trucks were housed on property belonging to Prugh, who was instrumental in the department's inception.
Through the years, the department has struggled and scraped to make do with the equipment it had, often being met with ridicule and inconvenience.
"People used to laugh at us a lot," Prugh said. "We had one truck that wouldn't run, but the pumper on it worked, so we ended up towing it to a fire."
From the property the station sits on to all of the equipment and training facilities, the volunteer firefighters have dedicated their time and effort to ensure that everything is owned by the department.
"We were approved for a 40-year loan to build this station," Prugh said. "We paid it off in eight years."
Prugh went on to say that the volunteer department has continued to gradually add on as the community's needs have increased, to include an additional station.
With no paid firefighters, the heart of the department lies with the 37 volunteers.
At the Clifford E. Poe Jr. substation, there is a palpable sense of pride throughout the building. The substation was built by firefighters with funds raised from auctions, donations and money from controlled burns the department conducted.
"The community needed it because of all the growth and two acres of land were donated," said Assistant Fire Chief Doug Fagg Jr. The donated two-ton brush trucks were rebuilt by the firefighters.
The other trucks the department uses include models from 1976 and 1981.
During a ceremony held at the main firehouse on Wednesday, Hause was presented with a letter from Congressman K. Michael Conoway that stated, "with this grant you will be able to purchase the equipment you need to continue to ensure the safety of your community and department."
Hause also was presented with a certificate from Sen. John Cornyn,
During the ceremony, Hause took a moment to thank supporters who helped with the grants approval.
"I can not tell you how much this grant means to this department," Hause said. "We all just want to extend our gratitude and appreciation to everyone who has helped make this possible."
The new truck will be a thousand-gallon pumper outfitted with a compressed air foam system. Hause said the foam system will make the truck four times as efficient. It causes 1,000 gallons of water to act more like 4,000 gallons, as well as limiting the amount of water damage to a structure, Haus said.
The department is currently accepting bids for construction of the truck, which is expected to take between three and 10 months.
The grant program assists local fire departments to purchase firefighting equipment, fund firefighter health and safety programs, enhance emergency medical service programs and conduct fire education nationwide. The KVFD had previously applied for and been denied the grant three times.
Contact Kristine Favreau at firstname.lastname@example.org