Thursday, April 25, 2024

Granbury VFD Chief presents annual review

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Granbury area residents have lots of reasons to be encouraged by the performance of the Granbury Volunteer Fire Department, according to the annual review presented by Fire Chief Matt Hohon during the Granbury City Council meeting Feb. 20.

For the 2023 year, the GVFD received 1,576 calls with a response time of two minutes, 39 second en route time and a five minute, 43 second average travel time. Hohon highlighted the en route time, noting the national standard for career fire departments is 90 seconds.

“Our time is exceptional for volunteers,” Hohon expressed during the meeting.

He said with the continual population increase there has been an increase in the number of calls received over previous years. 2023 was an exception, with 1,210 fire calls versus 1,250 in 2022. Prior to 2021, the department received fewer than 950 calls per year.

Hohon also pointed out that medical calls continue to increase and Texas EMS has been working diligently to keep up with the demand.

The department currently has 71 members who accumulated 9,675 individual responses for a total of 6,858 hours. The department averages 11 firefighters per commercial fire, 10 for residential fires, seven for vehicle accidents and five for fire alarms.

For the 2023 year, the department received $37,000 dollars in citizen donations, with total reimbursement since 2020 totaling $168,000 dollars.

Hohon wanted to highlight the efforts of Donnie Hurd, district president, and Jessie Slaughter, assistant chief, who are working on reciprocity through the Texas Commission on Fire Protection.

“Through the State Firefighters’ and Fire Marshals’ Association certification, as firefighters (complete) all four stages of their training, they’ll actually be state recognized as commissioned firefighters,” Hohon said. “That’s a huge, monumental leap forward because we overemphasize using the program, making sure that we have a state standard that we follow. Granbury is probably going to be one of the few towns in Texas that, when the reciprocity comes through, we’ll have upwards of 50 to 60 commissioned firefighters on staff.”

Hohon also talked about the Insurance Services Office rating which scores fire departments on performance against the organization’s standards to determine property insurance costs. The lower the number, the lower the insurance premiums are. The department is currently a three but Hohon noted the department should easily be a two.

“We haven’t hit an ISO two but when we do, you’ll probably see me cartwheeling around city hall for a while,” Hohon shared. “That’s just a monumental achievement and is not just big for the department but huge for the city.”

He also pointed out there was some leftover money at the end of the year that was put into repairing an old fire truck to extend its life of service.

When it comes to 2024, the department is looking at doing more recruiting and focusing on sustainability. It is also are in talks about implementing a health and wellness program. The department continues to move closer to three fire and EMS stations in the county with one inside the city limits near Nettie Baccus Elementary.

Hohon noted that switching 42 volunteers to part- or full-time paid employees would cost roughly $5.3 million or a 22-cent property tax increase.

“The best part about us being a volunteer department is that theoretical $5.3 million a year is ultimately going to other services and benefits that can extend to the citizens,” Hohon shared. “Sometimes it’s tourism, sometimes it’s for the city departments, or adding new infrastructure. The volunteer department gives us a little bit of flexibility on that as long as the organization is strong… How long do you want to run the city with a volunteer department? That is a decision that Granbury is going to have to make (in the future).”

Council members thanked Hohon and the department for all of their hard work and continued dedication to both the city and county.