Legal battle ends over fire equipment

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – A nearly two-year-long legal battle over millions of dollars worth of fire equipment came to an end Monday.

The dispute between the West I-10 Volunteer Fire Department and Emergency Service District No. 48 began in 2015.

The dispute began in late 2015, when ESD 48 took over fire service for an area of west Harris County as a way to modernize the department and streamline responses to calls for help.

Even though West I-10 was asked to continue overseeing volunteer firefighters, the heads of the department argued the new deal violated an agreement that it would be paid for its’ service.

West I-10 refused to hand over millions worth of fire trucks and other equipment; claiming the gear belonged to the department.

Since the department stopped receiving calls for help through the 911 system and had no contracts to back up neighboring departments; all of the equipment sat idle.

ESD 48 argued the equipment was bought with tax money and belonged to the taxpayers.

Both sides sued each other in court with a judge eventually ruling in favor of ESD 48.

Yet, West I-10 kept appealing the ruling.

Finally, a deal was struck on Friday.

ESD 48 would pay West I-10 for money spent by the department right before the 2015 switch, let them keep two fire trucks, a trailer, some firefighting gear and some SUVs.

In exchange, everything else goes back to ESD 48.

Officials with ESD 48 said they felt this agreement was the best way to avoid further delays over the use of the equipment.

However, they said the equipment will first have be inspected before it is put back into service.

As for what West I-10 will do with the handful of vehicles it gets to keep; the department has not laid out any specific plans.