LITTLE RIVER-ACADEMY — Where are the fire trucks?
That is the question being asked in Little River-Academy Thursday after three fire trucks were removed from the city after the Little River-Academy Volunteer Fire Department voted Wednesday night to dissolve, Mayor Drew Lanham said.
Karen Hoelker, fire department president, and Fire Chief Dennis Fastzkie could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Lanham said the city plans to replace the troubled agency with a new department consisting of a paid fire chief and a group of volunteers that will be overseen by the City Council.
Until a new department is organized, Troy, Holland and Rogers fire departments will dispatched to Little River-Academy through the Bell County Communications Center.
After the dissolution of the Volunteer Fire Department, some disgruntled firefighters sought to donate equipment to other agencies, the mayor said.
Members of the Buckholts Volunteer Fire Department members went to Little River-Academy Wednesday night to pick up bunker gear that they were told was no longer needed. The department was even asked if it wanted another truck, Buckholts VFD Secretary Gary Kleypas said Thursday.
Two Buckholts firefighters left after Lanham arrived at the fire station and threatened to arrest them, Kleypas said.
Milam County sheriff deputies even visited the Buckholts station Thursday to check for the missing fire trucks, Kleypas said.
The trucks were seen Wednesday evening at Gunsmoke Motors, which does car sales and repair,
Ronnie White, owner of Gunsmoke Motors, said Thursday that the fire trucks were released Wednesday evening to Little River-Academy fire department members after inspections were complete. White said the inspections were due for the trucks at the same time.
There were reports of the trucks being located in Heidenheimer, Lanham said, but no vehicles were found.
Lanham and city officials were checking Thursday to see if the city could file charges against those responsible for taking the trucks, which were registered to the volunteer fire department.
“We want our trucks back,” Lanham said. “The people in the community paid for those trucks, not the volunteer firefighters.”
The department has had five members arrested on criminal charges within the past year.
Three men — John Ernest Burroughs, 31, of Temple, John Edward Mercer, 50, of Heidenheimer, and Joshua Chance Adkins, 28, of Killeen — were charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer, a third-degree felony. Each man was a member of the fire department when the alleged offenses occurred, but were not on fire department duty. Burroughs was the assistant fire chief and Mercer was the captain. Hoelker previously said the three men were suspended from the department until the investigation was completed.
A previous fire chief, David Borders, and his son, firefighter Williams Borders, were respectively indicted for the alleged theft of funds from $30,000 to $150,000 and debit card abuse. The offenses reportedly happened at least from 2016 to 2018 but maybe went back as far as 2012, according to affidavits.
The Bell County Sheriff’s Department wasn’t participating Thursday in the search for the missing trucks, spokesman T.J. Cruz said, because the fire trucks were taken in Little River-Academy.
Little River-Academy Police Chief Frankie Poole didn’t return a phone call Thursday.