Treasure Island Fire Department donates truck to Panhandle town

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When Hurricane Michael roared ashore last October, it decimated parts of the Panhandle and left one small town in dire straits financially. Now a local fire station is helping its brothers in north Florida.

Blountstown didn't grab headlines in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, but the town, which has a population of about 2,500 people, was hit hard by the storm.

"The storm changed everything. On October 10th our lives changed quite a bit," said Fire Chief Ben Hall. "We're about 35, 40 miles inland from Mexico Beach and still had quite a bit of damage."

More than four months after the hurricane, fallen trees still litter the town. With wildfire season approaching, the timing couldn't be worse for Blountstown's only fire truck to break down.

"We were in the process of getting ready to replace it. Financially, we were arranging the funds, working on the budget and trying to get that done," Hall said. "And then Hurricane Michael hit. And we went from being a very financially stable city to being almost $15 million in debt."

Hall is the fire department's only paid employee. The rest of his crew are volunteers.

With no money for a new truck, Hall send out a request for assistance to the Florida Fire Chiefs Association. Just hours later, Chief Trip Barrs of the Treasure Island Fire Department answered their call for help.

"I sent an email, it went out on a Wednesday afternoon," Hall said. "Thursday morning, Chief Barrs was calling me coming to our rescue."

"Immediately I thought about our rescue vehicle that was about to become obsolete with the purchase of our new one," Barrs told FOX 13.

Barrs suggested giving their 18-year-old fire truck to Blountstown Fire Rescue instead of selling it as planned. On Tuesday night, Treasure Island city leaders approved the donation.

"I'm glad we're able to help on the back end and help our brothers up there in Blountstown," Barrs said.

The truck will need to be adapted to handle brush fires, but Hall said he's grateful for his brothers in Treasure Island.

"With this truck right here, the brotherhood in the fire service is nowhere near dead. It's still there," Hall said.