Fire department response times in northeastern Burnet County, particularly the Watson area, soon could be cut by as much as 10 minutes thanks to a grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority and the Pedernales Electric Cooperative.
On December 3, LCRA and PEC representatives presented the Oakalla Volunteer Fire Department with a $19,882 check. Along with $5,000 of matching funds from the department, the money will go toward a new substation near the intersection of U.S. 183 and FM 963.
A fire truck housed at the new location should result in quicker emergency response times.
“The truck we will be putting in the substation in Watson is one of our first-attack trucks and is outfitted to be manned by one firefighter if necessary,” said Christina Roehrig, secretary of the Oakalla department. “As the population continues to grow in our southern coverage area, having a vehicle stationed in Watson will enable us to respond to an emergency scene and get help to victims more quickly.”
Oakalla Volunteer Fire Department, founded in 1984, covers about 198 square miles in northeastern Burnet County.
A recent rise in calls to the Oakalla department mirrors an increase in residential and commercial development. The department also responds to calls in the Lampasas and Killeen-Fort Hood areas.
U.S. 183 is a well-traveled highway, and Oakalla VFD responds to a number of vehicle accidents and other emergencies as more people move to, work in, or travel through the area.
Earlier this year, Oakalla VFD’s coverage area expanded, almost doubling to its current 198 square miles, after the emergency service district contracted with it to cover more area in northeast Burnet County..
“If the department had not been given this grant, we would have to postpone (the construction of the substation) for several months while the funds were raised,” Roehrig added. “Because our service area has doubled, we have added ten new members who need to be outfitted with gear. The gear is very expensive, but, with this grant from LCRA, we can get the new substation up and running and still use our available funds to make sure our firefighters are outfitted safely.”
The community grant is one of many grants recently awarded through LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program, which provides economic development and community assistance grants to cities, counties, volunteer fire departments, regional developmental councils, and other nonprofit organizations in the authority’s service area. The program is part of LCRA’s effort to give back to the communities it serves.
PEC is one of LCRA’s wholesale electric customers and a partner in the grant program.
Applications for the next round of grants will be accepted from January 1-31, 2020. Visit the grant webpage for more information.