The N.C. Forest Service and the people of Gaston and surrounding counties received a great gift recently, a 2007 Freightliner tractor-trailer.
The hauling unit came to the Forest Service through a program that makes surplus federal equipment available to state and local firefighters. But the truck needed some work, and that’s when the giving really began.
The Freightliner plant in Mount Holly and volunteers from the United Auto Workers union rebuilt the former military hauling unit for the Forest Service over the fall, saving the agency a significant amount of money. Dan Brandon, district forester in the Forest Service’s Mount Holly office, estimated the company and union saved the agency close to $8,000 in paint alone. The local UAW agreed to take on the project and Freightliner agreed to supply the materials if the union members would volunteer their time, Brandon said.
Mark Hernandez, plant manager at Freightliner in Mount Holly and UAW Local 5285 member, said, “The people that volunteered to work on the truck wanted to help their neighbors, local firemen and the N.C. Forest Service to protect the community.”
The rebuilt truck will be used to haul a tractor-plow, which will allow the Forest Service to respond effectively to wildfires in the district by getting the appropriate equipment to the scene safely. Having that reliability is essential to running a successful firefighting program, Brandon said.
“This project is a great example of how we, as a government agency, can work with private industry to accomplish good things for the people of North Carolina,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.
The truck came to the state under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Forest Service that allows the N.C. Forest Service to obtain excess property from the federal government for its own firefighting needs or to loan to fire departments for as long as they have a use for it.