A law enforcement investigation is hoping to determine who shot at a Plum Grove Volunteer Fire Department tanker truck Thursday night, breaking out the windshield of the vehicle.
According to Plum Grove Fire Chief Chris Loftin, firefighters and their families were enjoying family night at the fire station on FM 1010 Thursday when firefighters were called to an emergency. One of the department’s trucks – a 2008 Freightliner tanker – was pulled onto the concrete pad in the back of the fire station while they responded to the emergency.
While they were away, and while the firefighters’ family members were still inside awaiting their return, someone reportedly fired two to three shots in the direction of the fire station, hitting the truck.
“Our secretary heard three shots and went to the front of the building, thinking it had come from the front. When she didn’t see anything, she assumed it was a car that had backfired,” Loftin said.
When the firefighters returned, they began to move the truck back inside the station. That’s when they found the damaged vehicle. One of the spent rounds from what appears to be a 40-caliber firearm was inside the vehicle. Another round was found lying on the ground in the parking lot. So far, they have been unable to find a third round, Loftin said.
Pct. 6 Constable John Joslin was called to investigate. Loftin said the department also is reviewing footage from surveillance cameras to aid in the investigation.
The fire chief went on social media to make the community aware of the damage to the fire truck and to put them on alert. Twenty minutes later, Lone Star Emergency Group, which builds apparatuses for fire departments, saw the post and offered to help by hiring a company to replace the windshield.
“It means a lot. They appreciate everything we do for our community and felt like it was good to give back to us,” the chief said.
Hours after the truck was damaged, the new windshield was installed.
Loftin said the department is now looking into stepping up security to ensure firefighters’ safety, particularly since they are uncertain if the gunfire was intentional.
“We are looking into open carry of firearms for our firefighters. I am on the fence about it but it is being discussed,” said Loftin, adding that the decision will be left to the fire department’s senior management.
The fire department is also considering new policies regarding fire response, which could involve no fire trucks going out without two firefighters on board.
“We are going to keep doing the best we can. I don’t want these guys to get shot at. Some of the guys are already unnerved by it,” said Loftin, explaining that firefighters were previously fired upon while responding to fires in the predominantly Hispanic communities south of Plum Grove. “We also had an incident where someone was actively stealing hydraulic tools off our fire truck while we were on the scene of a grass fire. They were pulling off the tools and trying to run away with them.”
As the all-volunteer fire department is funded mostly through fundraisers, grants and reimbursements from the county, extra expenses from theft or vandalism are intolerable.
Plum Grove Fire Department has 36 firefighters on its roster. The department is responsible for 55.4 square miles that includes the City of Plum Grove and the outlying areas, such as the Maywood Subdivision in the Splendora area and the Magnolia Estate Subdivision in Harris County. Loftin said the department routinely responds to fire calls in Liberty, northeast Montgomery and northeast Harris counties.