CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
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.