Last week, Norwood’s Assistant Chief David Blunt and Wildland Fire Coordinator Mark Garcia flew into Fouts Brothers Fire Equipment in LaGrange, Texas, and drove a big, red, brand new fire truck back home to Norwood.

The four-wheel-drive wildland tactical tender, designated “T-4,” carries 1,800 gallons of water on an international chassis with a nine-liter Cummins diesel engine, and a pump that puts out 1,250 gallons per minute. Though designed to supply water to the wildland fire ground, T-4 is fully capable of fire suppression in both field and town with its ability to spray foam, carry hose and tools, and “pump and roll” through rough terrain.

Officials say it is well suited to support Norwood’s existing fleet, whether that’s an initial attack on grass and forest fires, backing up on a structure fire in town, or responding to a vehicle fire on Norwood Hill in the middle of winter.

“Our district needs this tactical tender, and it’s going to be a key piece of equipment for us,” district chief John Bockrath said. “Everyone knows water is scarce around here, and this tanker can bring more water to a fire with multiple capabilities. It’s ideal for backing up our existing engines and crews on structure fires, multi-vehicle accidents, rescue operations and hazardous materials cleanup.”

The new T-4 tender is “tactical” because it has a powerful pump and is far more versatile than Norwood’s old water truck. The previous tanker, which was sold last year, lacked four-wheel-drive, and was limited to just carrying water, not pumping it.

“With its modern safety features and state-of-the-art technology, T-4 is an awesome addition,” Bockrath said. “It’s going to provide more fire protection to the district. It fits well within our overall urban-wildland interface firefighting strategy, especially with the long distances we have to contend with, often with little or no access to water sources, and our difficult winter road conditions.”

The new engine is being purchased on a five-year payment agreement. District bookkeeper Candy Meehan just made the first payment, and district administrator Sonny Lopez is working with Bockrath on writing grants to offset its overall cost.

The delivery of T-4 came just in time as Garcia’s wildland team gets ready for action. The 2021 fire season is already in full swing, and Norwood’s vehicles and crews will be heading out to fight state and federally managed fires to ease the tax burden for district residents by bringing in contract revenues. T-4 will stay close to home most of the time, while Garcia takes the brush truck and recently purchased chase truck out on the longer and more distant assignments. With all the district’s newly minted EMTs, the district plans to eventually man an ambulance for wildland deployments as well.

“There are already over 100 fires going on around the country, and we’re about to get very busy,” said Garcia, who has plenty of outside contractors at the ready in addition to district volunteers.

The recent recruiting drive has produced excellent results, including welcoming one of the newest members, Cody Hodgins, who moved to Wright’s Mesa all the way from New Hampshire after a friend texted him a photo of one of the “Norwood Fire Needs You” posters.