Maintaining adequate staffing levels is tough for any public entity, but it has been extremely hard on the Tomball Fire Department (TFD). With a booming population comes increased traffic, more accidents and more calls for service.
“It’s a balancing act,” Tomball Fire Chief Randy Parr said.
That’s why when word came of a federal grant program that would enable the department to hire more firefighters, Parr jumped at the chance to apply. The Tomball City Council gave Parr permission to apply for the grant and he recently heard from FEMA that their grant proposal was accepted.
A grant for a little more than $1.2 million spread out over two years, will enable Parr to hire nine fulltime firefighters.
“This is truly a game changer for the Tomball Fire Department,” he said. “It will provide continuity in our operations and groups of firefighters will be able to work together continuously.”
The department has always been able to maintain a high rating, even in the face of staffing shortages, Parr said, but the constant struggle to move parts and people around hasn’t been easy.
“The issue has been to have enough consistent staffing to keep two fire stations open for 24 hours,” he said. “In order to do that, we have to have two apparatuses staffed with a minimum of three people.”
Parr said that two out of every three days, station two on Holderreith Road is closed at night, due to understaffing.
“In order to mitigate that we have to have four full-time firefighters,” he said. “This will improve the safety of the community and the safety of our firefighters.”
The grant will be all of the salary and benefits for the nine firefighters, which Parr said will consist of three officers, three driver/operators and three firefighters. A cutback of part-time firefighter hours and continued growth of city and emergency service district revenue streams, will go towards ensuring the department will be able to keep the new firefighters after the two-year grant period. Parr said that he, Tomball City Manager George Shackelford and the Tomball City Council will work together over the next year to come up with a plan.
“We still continue to anticipate growth in revenues,” Parr said.
Parr said that once news arrived that TFD was being awarded the grant, he knew the community had won.
“We will now be able to provide our good, consistent service for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”