Much the same as when a child is gifted with a shiny, red toy fire truck, it was all grins at the Vilonia Fire Department when Chief Keith Hillman accepted the keys to a 50-foot, ladder truck valued at $156,000.

While the color of the truck was greenish-yellow when delivered, it has been

taken to a painting business in Vilonia for a shiny red coat.  Hillman, firefighters and dignitaries including County Judge Preston Scoggin were on hand Friday for the unveiling.

Other than a cost of about $4,800 in shipping fees and the paint job, the cost to the city is "zero," Hillman said, adding that the truck is about 17 years old with 38,000 miles on it.

 "It’s still got a lot of good years and miles on it," Hillman said.

The gift was presented by Randy Pogue of the Arkansas Forestry Service. It was acquired, Pogue said, in New Jersey from the U.S. Navy through the

Federal Excess Personal Property Program—which provides for an interagency

agreement between the Department of Defense and Forestry Service to provide

surplus equipment to state and territorial forestry programs.

"It’s your tax money coming back to the communities rather than allowing

liquidators handle the property," Pogue offered.

Surplus items such as fire trucks and other equipment are dispersed on a

first-come, first-serve basis through the government program, Pogue

explained. As well, there’s a waiting line for fire departments, Pogue said.

And, this time, he said, "Vilonia got the prize." And, a prize it is,

firefighters said. 

Vilonia firefighters said it is a welcome addition to their fleet.

"It will enhance our firefighting capabilities in high rise situations—in

both commercial and residential settings," said firefighter Stan Jones. "It

will let us do more from above and safety of the firefighters."

The Forestry Service, he said, had secured 1,500 trucks since 2006 and

distributed them to departments over the state, Pogue said. He estimated 95

percent of the 21 fire departments in the county have received donations.

"If we have a request from any fire department, we begin looking for it," he

said. He also talked about the organization’s interest free loan program

allowing rural fire departments to purchase equipment.

"We support the fire departments because when we need them, like on wildland

fires, they are here to support us," he concluded.