John Pape from FortBendNow.com recently reported on fire protection matters in northwest Fort Bend County. His article:
As it continues to finalize the city’s emergency preparedness plan, the Weston Lakes City Council has received a briefing on fire protection from Fulshear-Simonton Fire Chief Herc Meier. The Fulshear-Simonton Fire Department, using a combination of paid and volunteer firefighters, provides fire and first-responder services to Weston Lakes, as well as the Fulshear-Simonton area, including the expansive Firethorne master-planned community.
With the explosive growth taking place in the Fulshear area and just south of Katy, the department is also growing to keep pace with all the new residents, Meier said. “As we have grown, our budget has grown,” Meier said. “We will be opening our third fire station in Westheimer Lakes in February.”
Meier said the once all-volunteer department now supplements its staff with part-time paid firefighters to ensure 24-hour coverage. Most of the paid firefighters come from other area departments – including Richmond, Rosenberg, Missouri City and Sugar Land – on their days off. Meier said the department now has a staff of about three dozen firefighters and responds to an average of three calls per day.
“Keeping track of 36 firefighters is like herding cats,” Meier said, adding that 20 of them work on paid part-time basis while the remaining 16 are volunteers. Today’s staffing is a dramatic change from the department’s humble beginnings, the chief explained. The department was initially organized in 1962 with one used fire truck from Rosenberg. The department fell into a state of disorder for a period of time until an arsonist struck the area in 1974, setting fire to a number of hay barns.
“That was quite devastating for the ranches in the area,” Meier said. The department was then re-organized, but finances remained lean. Meier recalled times when firefighters were forced to buy fuel for the fire truck out of their own pockets. “We lived kind of hand-to-mouth,” he said.
In 1983, the department needed to build a new permanent fire station. At that time, the Fort Bend Rural Fire Prevention District No. 1 was created to provide a tax base to support departmental operations. “We went out and campaigned for this,” Meier recalled.
The fire district covers the portion of Fort Bend County from The Grand Parkway on the east to the Brazos River on the west, and from the county line to the north to the Brazos River on the south. Today, the fire department responds to about 900 calls every year. Even as the department prepares to open its third station, initial planning for a fourth in Firethorne has begun. That station, however, remains several years away.
“We’re just starting to talk with their architect,” Meier said. “I’d love to have a fire station out there yesterday.”
Meier also praised the extensive emergency planning Weston Lakes has undertaken to make the city less vulnerable to natural or man-made disasters. He said he hoped the city “will never have to really appreciate” the extensive plan it is putting in place.
He also said even though the department now serves three municipalities following Weston Lakes’ incorporation last year, adding the new city’s name to the department would be a problem. “We’d like to put Weston Lakes in our name along with Fulshear and Simonton, but we’ve already got most of the alphabet covered,” Meier joked.