Sunday, October 21, 2007
Shake-up at Tool VFD
Fire chief asks officers to resign; new assistant chief begins training, seeks experienced recruits
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
TOOL–Concern over the effectiveness of the Tool Volunteer Fire Department has generated a great deal of discussion lately – and some drastic action.
Tool Fire Chief Rodney McClain recently requested the resignation of the department’s officers and has appointed a new assistant chief – Gary Tyson.
Tyson lives in the Emergency Service District No. 4, the funding arm for the department, and is also a paid firefighter in Kilgore.
His work shifts – 24 hours on and 48 hours off – allows him to tend to the fire station in Tool three to four days a week.
“I’m here a lot,” he told The Monitor. He has six years of fire fighting experience, three as a professional.
Tyson’s presence at the station and level of expertise is very important because the fire chief, who works for East Cedar Creek Fresh Water Supply District, is restricted from crossing to the west side of the lake during working hours.
McClain was installed as chief last January, when the former chief resigned.
Tyson’s appointment came immediately following the resignation of six volunteer firefighters, most of the department’s officers.
McClain asked for their resignations two weeks ago, when he learned they had held “illegal” meetings, in violation of the department’s bylaws, with members of the city council.
The first one was Friday, Oct. 5, and McClain said he was not informed about that meeting.
The next morning, he was called to attend an officers’ meeting to go over concerns, but he had already assured his daughter of his presence at her soccer game that day. McClain called an officers’ meeting for Sunday, Oct. 7, at which time he read a brief statement and asked for their resignations.
Since then, one person has circulated a letter to the newspapers and to Precinct 1 Commissioner Joe Hall raising an alarm about the fire department’s inability to respond to calls.
“There’s been numerous occasions in the last several months that no one has showed up (from the fire department to answer a call),” Mayor Scott Confer said Thursday. “I’ve been really concerned.”
Confer reviewed a list of needs that he said have not been met since the ESD was established five years ago, including a lack of training, not having enough people to respond, equipment stored in the open and no new fire station erected.
People within the department also have concerns.
“There’s a lot of internal strife. We wanted to know what we might do to help the situation,” Confer said. Dealing with volunteers is much different from dealing with employees, he pointed out.
“I believe we’re finally on the right track,” Tyson responded Thursday.
“We’re responding to daytime calls,” McClain told The Monitor.
Having enough trained volunteer firefighters available to respond to calls during working hours is a national problem, Tyson said, “no different here than anywhere else.”
The Monitor confirmed the Tool VFD assisted the Seven Points VFD at a house fire Wednesday.
Tyson said the former officers were not fulfilling their responsibilities when it came to setting up a training program, becoming NIMS (National Incident Management System) compliant, and equipping the new fire truck.
Since his appointment, Tyson has ordered curriculum from the State Firemen and Fire Marshals’ Association of Texas.
The first training session from that curriculum is set for Monday night (tomorrow), he said.
The SFFMA sets quality levels, Tyson added. He also reported the fire truck is nearly ready to be put into service.
“They’ve (the former officers) been working for four years to get it, and haven’t done it yet,” he said.
McClain told The Monitor he has about 10 trained firefighters to answer calls and he’s looking for more. The marquee at Tool City Hall advertises that fact.
Tyson reported receiving three more applications in the last week, including two from experienced firefighters.
The fire department is launching a campaign to recruit other paid firefighters who live in the area, he said.
Additionally, Tyson’s wife, an Athens High School health teacher, is conducting CPR classes for Tool firefighters and police officers Saturday, Nov. 3.
“We want to get everyone up-to-date on their certification,” Tyson said. The class will be the first in a series of health-safety classes.
“Let me tell you about Tyson,” ESD No. 4 treasurer and co-founder of the district Larry Moran told The Monitor.
“Not long ago, a man drove up to the station with a limp 5-month-old in his arms. The baby’s heartrate had dropped to 30 and was not breathing. Tyson called for an ambulance and cleared the baby’s airway, so she could breathe,” Moran said. “She was taken to Children’s Hospital in Dallas. I was glad he was there.”
Moran, who attends all the Monday meetings of the fire department, confirmed no training has been taking place. He also confirmed that there has never been better cooperation between the ESD board and the fire department as there is now under McClain.
“I only see positive things for the future,” he said.
Though the city has offered a 99-year lease on the property adjacent to city hall, the district is going forward with purchasing a larger piece of property for $35,000 where a larger building can be constructed to better meet current and future needs, he said.
“It will cost all of $35,000 to demolish what’s there before something new can be built,” he said. The district is seeking a USDA low-interest loan, he added.
“I hope he’s right,” Confer responded. “The (current) situation has been leading to the city having no choice but to start the fire department again. The last thing I want to do is dismantle the funding engine (ESD No. 4). I don’t like being pushed into these corners.”
Gym plans approved
Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
During a lengthy discussion, the trustees touched on
the floor surface in the lockerrooms and the type of seating to be used.
students get first air ambulance demonstration
A yellow-and-black PHI helicopter, based in Corsicana,
landed outside the school Thursday morning. Flight paramedic Jeremy
Hudson led a classroom lecture and the following hands-on discussion
about air ambulance operations and safety.
Monitor Photo/Kerry Yancey
Each air ambulance flies with a three-man crew – the
pilot (Studer), a flight nurse (RN Dewayne Martin) and a flight medic
(David Dotson), Hudson told the students.