By Berenice Garcia – The Monitor

McALLEN — The fire department here is newly prepared for potential airplane emergencies.

Firefighters and city officials unveiled a new fire truck on Tuesday that will be used to respond to any emergencies at the McAllen International Airport.

The fire department celebrated the acquirement of the E-ONE apparatus during a traditional “push-back” ceremony at the McAllen fire substation #4.

“It’s a tradition for the fire department going back to the 1800s in which the fire engines at the time were pulled by horses,” said Interim Fire Chief Juan Gloria. “With that in mind, whenever a new apparatus arrived to a fire house, the firefighters themselves would bring the truck to the front of the fire station — they would clean it, they would wash it and, by hand, they would push it back inside the quarters to put it in service and that is what we’re going to replicate today.”

The new truck is equipped with a 1,500 gallon on-board water tank and a high extendable reach turret, or H.E.R.T., piercing tip. The truck also has a 2,000 gallons per minute water pump, foam concentrate capacity of 210 gallons, and a dry-chemical fire suppression agent of 500 pounds.

This truck is going to be replacing an older fire unit that’s about 15 years old and it comes with all the usual capacity for water, foam and a few other agents that are specific for fuel fires, of course, specific to airplanes,” Gloria said. “It also has the ability to pierce through the actual fuselage of the plane (so) in the event of some kind of fire inside, it can pierce through it and literally inject water inside for faster extinguishment.”

Gloria emphasized that the truck will not be leaving the airport area as it will exclusively respond to emergencies within the airport perimeter.

“We have a range of different alerts that we may be activated for and so these are the fire trucks that will run quickly to the beginning of the runway as an airplane is coming in with any kind of emergency,” Gloria said. “They’ll be able to chase right behind and be there basically the moment in which the wheels stop; these fire trucks will be right on site ready to either extinguish the fire or to provide personnel for any kind of rescue that may be needed.”

The nearly $900,000 unit was funded by passenger fees collected locally by the McAllen airport and with the authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.

“A large part of the funding comes from the passenger facility charge which comes as a fee for every ticketed passenger that goes through our airport,” said City Commissioner Joaquin “J.J.” Zamora.

City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez said the city prioritizes serving the community in a way that is cost effective.

“We never stop working for this community, we never stop thinking of how best to serve our citizens and always at top of mind is also ‘How do we pay for it?’” Rodriguez said.

By funding the new truck with passenger facility funds, the purchase is not impacting citizens’ taxes, Rodriguez said.

“And that’s so important,” Rodriguez said. “It’s our job to ensure that everything that we do has the minimal impact to that, always.”

Gloria said the process of getting the new apparatus has taken nearly two years.

“There’s a long process to try to justify the funding request and acquiring the funding, going through the bid process too,” Gloria said. “We’re very happy that it finally became a reality today.”