Stations get go-ahead to work on deal to combine

Posted Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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On the east side of Weatherford, Station 2 of the Weatherford Fire Department has answered calls from residents around Lake Weatherford and the surrounding areas since its construction in 1996.

But a second station about a mile away – ESD No. 3, located in Hudson Oaks – often answers calls in the same area.

Because of the nearness of their locations and the overlap of their jurisdiction, sometimes the firefighters even pass each other’s station on the way to a call.

To be more efficient with the resources of the two stations, Weatherford Fire Chief Paul Rust proposed to the City Council in a work session May 28 that the stations join into one location.

“I can absolutely see where this would be a great situation and a win-win for both,” Council Member Jeff Robinson said of the proposed joining of stations. “It can make the ESD better and the city of Weatherford better.”

ESD No. 3 Chief Pat English said the idea was first mentioned about 18 months ago but was not seriously discussed until the past January. He said the change makes perfect sense.

“They save money, we save money and the residents get better service,” English said.

Station 2 has three firefighters on staff at all times while the Hudson Oaks station has two. Both have an engine and brush truck.

Rust said Station 2 was not intended to be a fire station at all, but a portion of the water treatment plant next door.

“Since the beginning there have been some issues with the building by the lake such as a leaky roof that forces them to sometimes move furniture around when it rains,” Rust said.

If the stations combine, they would use the Hudson Oaks station and staff it with four firefighters provided by the WFD.

But instead of leaving the six Hudson Oaks firefighters without jobs, they will hire three to fill Weatherford positions already open due to retirements and will then create three new positions for the others.

English said he announced the possible change to his firefighters a couple weeks before and they were shocked and apprehensive concerning the change, but he and Rust have been able to meet with them and answer many questions.

The ESD No. 3 also includes 20 volunteers. Rust said he hopes they too will transition into a group of reserves for Weatherford’s stations.

Lt. Robert Banks of Station 2 said he looks forward to possibly working with the Hudson Oaks firefighters.

“We’ve got a really good working relationship with them,” Banks said.

Station 2 firefighter Ryan Whiteman said they would have to adjust to the increase in calls a combination would bring. Station 2 gets the fewest calls of the Weatherford stations and that number of 260 calls last year could triple when combined with the 622 calls Hudson Oaks received in 2012.

Rust pointed out that a portion of those calls were mutual aid where they helped other stations on calls, and also that the Weatherford station located on Bankhead could take on some of the calls closer to them.

Michael Rudd of Station 2 said despite the slightly larger district and the increase of calls, they would be doing it with new equipment, at a nicer and more centrally located station and with four firefighters answering the call instead of two or three.

Rust said having four on the engine will be a great advantage because of a law that requires two firefighters remaining outside a burning building for every two that enter unless a rescue is occurring. With fewer the firefighters have to wait for a second engine.

Robinson also expressed concern of calls coming at the same time when with two stations they could both be answered. But Rust said every station has to face that possibility.

To give a demonstration of the likelihood of two calls coinciding, Rust said Weatherford’s Station 1 receives on average 11 calls a day while the station on the lake only got about 1.7 calls each day.

The council gave Rust and English permission to move forward with forming a contract between the two departments. Hudson Oaks will pay a set price to help make up the difference of Weatherford hiring three of their men, which Rust said is about $200,000 a year.

English said the goal is to have the new plan in place by October 1 and a contract to bring to council in the next 30-45 days.

“I think the pros outweigh the cons,” Weatherford Mayor Dennis Hooks said.

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