It’s out with the old and in with the new for the Bexar-Bulverde Volunteer Fire Department with the recent purchase of two 2018 Pierce Velocity diesel pumper trucks.

The duo — costing about $750,000 apiece — were inducted in a traditional wetdown and push-in ceremony in March. Officials said the trucks are needed to keep up with a rapidly expanding area as more folks flock to north Bexar County and southern Blanco County.

“The population growth is pushing the needs of the department in staffing and apparatus,” said Fire Chief Jerry Bialick. “So we are right at 62,500 households out here. It’s tremendous. You can see the growth out here. That’s why we are basically doubling in size, adding two stations, and we will be hiring more full-time personnel and recruiting more volunteers and continue to grow.”

The new vehicles are equipped with 750-gallon water tanks, have 2,000-gallon per minute pump capacities, and are powered by Detroit Diesel 525 horsepower engines. They also include new safety features such as side-roll and frontal-impact protection, air bags and seat belts.

“These are state-of-the-art Pierce engines; there is no better. We are so excited to get these,” Bialick said.

Bexar-Bulverde Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jerry Bialick talks about the two new fire trucks during an observance to christen the vehicles. Photo by Noi Mahoney

The new additions replace older trucks, part of the fleet for more than 10 years. Typically, engines are retired after a decade or 100,000 miles, fire officials said.

The rugged Hill Country terrain necessitates the upgrade.

“This country out here, with these hills and stuff, is very hard on the equipment because you’re going quickly to all these calls and trucks aren’t race cars,” said Frank Middour, a BBVFD board member. “We were having to replace the brakes twice a year, and a complete brake job on one of these trucks is $4,000 to $5,000.”

Money for the acquisition was raised through property and sales taxes, plus collections by the board, Bialick said.

“We couldn’t buy these things without support from the citizens. Having the community behind us allows us to buy the best,” Bialick said. “Could we buy something cheaper? Yeah, we could, but I don’t think it’s safe and don’t think it’s as durable.”

Alongside the latest rigs, the department plans on acquiring another fire truck in a couple of months, as well as another ladder truck for $1.2 million, Bialick said.

On March 10, BBVFD invited the public to participate in a wetdown and push-in ceremony for new engines 103 and 104.

“Wetdowns began in the days horse-drawn pump carts were used,” the chief said.

When a volunteer department got a new pump cart, neighboring stations would come by and anoint it with a friendly blast of water. Then, by hand, firefighters would shove the newbie inside its berth. The tradition continues whenever a rookie truck is brought into service as a way of acknowledging the past.

The department has about 60 full-time and 35 part-time volunteers, with 13 full-time staffers.

BBVFD, operator of two firehouses — one at 23103 Bulverde Road near Johnson High School, and a smaller station at 1126 E. Borgfeld Drive — is preparing to open two more.

The newest facility at 27370 Canyon Golf Road will be its third location, with another planned for Evans Road. Both are expected to be running by 2020.

The department serves one of the fastest-growing areas north of San Antonio, according to demographers — overseeing a region stretching from south of Cibolo Creek to Camp Bullis’ borders, plus both sides of U.S. 281 North outside the city limits. Crews respond to about 2,500 calls annually in a 47-square-mile jurisdiction.

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