By Joshua Baethge

For the Anna-Melissa Tribune

The Melissa Fire Department has been awarded a $10,000 equipment grant from the Texas A&M Forest Service.

The grant was funded thorough the Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program.

The Melissa City Council officially unanimously accepted the grant during its Feb. 11 meeting.

Fire Chief Harold Watkins said that his department originally applied for a training library and laptop computer in February 2019. In December, he was notified that they had been approved for $10,000 in training equipment.

The chief said the department intends to use every penny. Among the items it plans to purchase are an airway management trainer, a manuals library, a rescue dummy and $4,000 worth of simulation device software.

“It’s a hundred percent funded, no match required, so the city is not obligated to any dollars towards that,” Watkins said. “Otherwise, this would be money that we would have to have been budgeted.”

The Texas A&M Forest Service was created in 1915 as a non-partisan, nonprofit organization tasked with monitoring and protecting the state’s forests. It was the first forestry agency in the nation to be part of a land grant college.

In 1993, the state legislature expanded its mission to include coordinating responses to major and potentially major wildland fires across the state.

The Rural Volunteer Fire Department Assistance Program doles out $17 million each year to departments with 20 or fewer paid members.

The grant it awards are used for fire equipment, training and apparatus. It typically has more than $200 million in requests from various agencies at any given time. Therefore, it was pretty impressive for the Melissa Fire Department to get a grant of this size approved in a relatively short time frame.

Chief Watkins promised to keep “swinging the bat” when opportunities like this arise.

“I appreciate your time and effort going after these,” Councilman Craig Ackerman said before making a motion to officially accept the grant. “It means a lot.”