Cottonwood Shores considers fire service options after mobile home is destroyed

CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER

Issues with the response time by the Cottonwood Shores Volunteer Fire Department to a recent structure fire on Fir Lane prompted city officials to re-evaluate the contract with the agency. Staff photo by Connie Swinney

Issues with the response time by the Cottonwood Shores Volunteer Fire Department to a recent structure fire on Fir Lane prompted city officials to re-evaluate the contract with the agency. Staff photo by Connie Swinney

COTTONWOOD SHORES — A fire Oct. 17 has sparked concerns about the level of services provided by the Cottonwood Shores Volunteer Fire Department.

Questions surfaced regarding a blaze that destroyed a mobile home at about 8:30 a.m. that day in the 600 block of Fir Lane in Cottonwood Shores. No one was injured, and the cause is under investigation.

The city of Cottonwood Shores contracts with the volunteer fire department for approximately $32,000 per year with stipends tied to performance.

In the Fir Lane fire, Horseshoe Bay and Marble Falls city agencies were called to respond and doused the blaze.

“(The Cottonwood Shores Volunteer Fire Department) did not have enough resources to respond initially to the fire,” said Horseshoe Bay Fire Chief Joe Morris. “They put out a request for Horseshoe Bay and Marble Falls to respond. We extinguished it.

“When the hazard was over, we transferred (the scene) back to Cottonwood Shores.”

A Cottonwood Shores VFD spokeswoman explained that, due to dwindling personnel, the department has come to rely on aid from neighboring agencies.

“At that one given time, we didn’t have enough people (to respond) here in the city,” spokeswoman Janet Taylor-Carusi said. “We did the best we could with the people we had that were available.

“We are eternally grateful that Horseshoe Bay and Marble Falls gave us automatic aid and came to us in a time of assistance.”

Since August, the volunteer department has reduced its staff by two firefighters after a resignation and a termination, officials said.

The agency currently reports having 15 volunteers, nine of whom have the required training for fire suppression.

“We need more daytime people. We need more volunteers,” Taylor-Carusi said.

City officials raised concerns about the level of service from the volunteer department.

Mayor Pro-tem Stephen Sherry remained critical of the VFD and stated the recent incident is the second time in five years he recalled that the agency was not prepared to handle a structure fire in the community.

“Cottonwood Shores Volunteer Fire Department basically needs to step up their game if they’re going to remain a viable organization,” Sherry said. “The equipment is probably not as much an issue as the personnel.”

Officials are discussing options that could include soliciting permanent fire suppression resources outside of the city.

“If we were not to contract with Cottonwood Shores Volunteer Fire Department, we would seek to contract with an accredited fire suppression organization,” Sherry said. “We would use the money we paid to the Cottonwood organization.”

To guarantee assistance from outside sources, the Cottonwood Shores VFD recently joined a CAPGOG program through the state in which at least 10 area agencies participate in an inter-local agreement to provide mutual fire suppression services in times of need.

“Volunteer fire departments are not as well-trained as paid departments,” Taylor-Carusi said about the resources within those neighboring agencies. “They have a massive amount of money at their disposal.”

She added that the agency will work to enhance its fire-suppression abilities but faces a challenge if funding and staff issues continue to plague the organization.

“The problem is we’re fighting a battle here to stay alive,” she said.

connie@thepicayune.com

5 Responses to “Cottonwood Shores considers fire service options after mobile home is destroyed”

  1. Dawn Dulaney says:

    So rather than accept the cities responsibility for the poorly funded VOLUNTEER Fire Department, Carusi elects to publicly “shame” those VOLUNTEERS. She claims to have no confidence in their abilities yet has provided no funding for training or equipment.
    But WOW….look at how nice our police officers look in their sporty “cruisers”.
    I wouldn’t want to VOLUNTEER for a city that does not appreciate it.
    Should we lose faith in our Police Department everytime MFPD or the BCSO answers and responds to calls from the City of Cottonwood Shores? Or is just the VOLUNTEER fire department?
    Priorities seem askew in the Hood of Cotton!

    • Sue says:

      Real nice Dawn to state that Cottonwood is a hood! I am proud to live there and have many wonderful friends and neighbor’s. Every neighborhood and city in this county has good and bad. Check your own ” hood ” before you rip someone else’s!

  2. Shannon says:

    So you represent Cottonwood and tear down the abilities orof the VOLUNTEER Cottonwood Fire Department. Are you a paid official? Do you volunteer to help them? Maybe if you tried helping them you would see the tireless efforts these men and women put into it. Should it be their fault they have to work to support their families. If your house caught fire, who would you call to put it out if they folded. Im a resident and I support them. YOU Mr.Sherry DO NOT represent your residents and you’d better believe we will remeber this when its election time. I hope every volunteer runs and gets every single one of you out.We support the VFDs and I can guarantee you wont be showing up if theres a fire.

  3. Janet K. Taylor-Carusi says:

    I am a proud member of the Cottonwood Shores Volunteer Fire Department, and we have an awesome team of personnel that service this community. I wish the community would see just how hard it is to get the city to work with us.

    The news article takes quotes and applies them to where they want to use them. What I said was our day time personnel is dwindling not our overall personnel. We need more day time responders. Hell, we need more people to stand up to the city and stop letting them just do whatever they want.

    Wait until we don’t have a contract and you will be waiting for MFVFD to come and respond to the fire calls. That is where one of the current city councilmembers husband is at now.

  4. Marie says:

    This is so sad and scary for our community – the city and county have been providing funds to the volunteer fire department for years – plenty to cover equipment and training but they continue to run-off many very capable and well trained volunteers. There are at least four who have left Cottonwood Shores’ fire department to join Marble Falls volunteer fire department because they aren’t respected or listened to by the leadership…. it is so sad to see. New leadership is needed and then these skilled volunteers might come back and our community would be supported by these qualified neighbors again.

    Or IF they ‘folded’ the city and county could contract with Marble Falls volunteers who live in our neighborhood but don’t want to be involved with the mess that is the current leadership. That is who to blame for the lack of responders by the current VFD – and perhaps the city and county for not overseeing the contracts to make sure good volunteers don’t get fed up and leave! And really, Shannon, you want unskilled individuals to show up to fight a fire….. I don’t think that is what the VFD would want but you represent them so maybe that is something more to be concerned about with the local organization’s policies.

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