The Blanco Volunteer Fire Department has hired nine part time employees in an effort to increase coverage during the week. Because the BVFD has relied on volunteers to respond to calls, the crews were often shorthanded and response time was slow. Having each firefighter work two twelve hour shifts a week has helped to ensure that there will always be someone there to respond.
David Hotz, BVFD fire chief, says that the majority of all calls fall between 1pm and 6pm, and during the week, it was often difficult for the volunteers to respond.
Hotz, who is also a lieutenant in Spring Branch, said that the paid employees are classified as maintenance, and that the Emergency Services District pays for their salaries. The nine are Brian Box, Robert Padilla, Cameron Celli, Josh Harwell, Royce Penshorn, Guy Morrison, Benny Gaida, Travis Stone and Matt Hayden. Hotz is also paid for his position.
The BVFD is responsible for 432 square miles, and also provides mutual aid for area fire departments, including, Johnson City, Henly, Round Mountain, Stonewall, and Spring Branch.
Benny Gaida and Travis Stone, two of the newly hired, were on duty last Thursday, April 6. Like Hotz, the two also work for other fire departments. They were both well informed and excited about the many changes that are happening for the Blanco Volunteer Fire Department. For example, the department is applying for a grant to obtain a new tanker truck. The addition would update the current fleet, which consists of three brush trucks, two tankers, a county engine, a city engine and a rescue truck, and will also give the firefighters the right equipment that they need to do their job.
The department also hopes to receive the status of First Responder, allowing them to be paged out for all calls, including medical emergencies. Because of the lack of ambulances in the county, the change could mean faster response times, especially when the ambulance is out on another call.
Currently, Blanco’s firefighters train elsewhere; for example, Gaida trained in San Antonio and Stone trained in Amarillo.
Soon, new recruits will be able to train closer to home in Spring Branch.
The Blanco Volunteer Fire Department is taking these steps in order to protect the citizens of Blanco and the surrounding area, and their desire to improve the department will benefit everyone.