EMS/Fire Department hires more firefighters

By Scott Mahon , Editor

The Canyon Lake Fire/EMS Department hired six new fire fighters last month which gives the department 24 full-time firefighters.

"The sales tax passed by voters was intended to help the department grow in order to provide better services to the community," said Fire Chief Shawn Wherry.

It also promoted three fire fighters to lieutenant, including David Griffin, Jeff Schultz and Justin Lowth.

"Each one had to pass a series of tests, including oral exams and interviews," Wherry said. "But they also had to have a minimum number of years of experience to qualify for the promotion."

Griffin has been with the department three years; Schultz almost four years and Lowth three and a half years.

New firefighters include Gabriel Ortega, Robert White, Jeffery McNatt, Carolyn McManus, Michael Hatfield and Jimmy Ballinger.

"We are also replacing two fire engines," Wherry said. "We'll sell the two engines we're replacing."

October has been designated Fire Prevention Month, and Wherry said the department will promote fire safety all month.

"We conducted fire safety programs at Rebecca Creek Elementary School last week as well as Mountain Valley School," he said. "But we also had programs at all the day-care centers in the area as well as at churches that have school programs."

On Sept. 13, twenty fire fighters participated in flashover simulation training in Austin with the Austin Fire Department.

Unlike municipal fire departments, Lake's Fire/EMS relies on a grants, donations and tax revenues.

It has an annual budget of $1.25 million, of which 40 percent is provided by tax revenues.

It now has 24 full-time fire fighters with eight fire fighters per 8-hour shift.

It is responsible for responding to emergencies and fires throughout 250-square miles of Comal County, 90 miles of Canyon Lake shoreline and 10 miles of the Guadalupe River.

The department's average response time of 8 1/2 minutes is slightly above the national average of 5 minutes calculated by the National Fire Protection Association.

There are three boards of directors that oversee Canyon Lake Fire/EMS, ESD #2 and ESD #3.

Members on the Canyon Lake Fire/EMS board of directors are elected by the membership. Members on the ESD boards are appointed by Comal County Commissioners.

Canyon Lake Area and Comal County Volunteer Fire Department was established in 1964, and provided fire and EMS services until 1989.

Canyon Lake EMS was established on May 15, 1989.

CLVFD and CLVEMS merged to form Canyon Lake Fire/EMS in September of 1998.

Canyon Lake Fire/EMS's tax revenues come from ad valorem taxes collected by Comal County Emergency Services Districts.

ESD2 and RFPD4 were created by a vote of the people to meet the emergency medical and fire prevention and suppression needs of northern Comal County.

ESD2 and RFPD4 collect property taxes from properties located within their service areas in order to fund the contracted service provider - Canyon Lake Fire/EMS.

ESD2 and RFPD4 work closely with the service provider to address the current and future needs of the community to assure the continuation of high quality services.

The current tax rate for ESD2 is less than 2 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation.

The current tax rate for RFPD4 is less than 3 cents per $100 of assessed property value. These two entities collect $550,000 in taxes which is budgeted to CLF/EMS to provide service.

Total tax revenues last year were about $550,000, Wherry said.

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