EDITOR’S NOTE: The Pleasanton Express reached out for public comments to a few of the Pleasanton volunteer firefighters. Some volunteers have respectfully chosen to not speak to the media at this time while others politely declined to go on the record. If any volunteers are willing to go on the record for public comments, please email the Pleasanton Express at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 830-569-6130 and ask for Rebecca.
In the past year, the City of Pleasanton has been working to convert the Pleasanton Volunteer Fire Department to a full-time, paid department. This new plan came to light following the naming of a new fire chief after Chuck Garris’ retirement on April 30.
“We’ve wanted to do this for quite some time now, and we decided now is better of a time as any,” said Pleasanton Mayor Travis Hall.
Pleasanton Fire Lieutenant Mario Escobedo was named the new fire chief on May 30 during the Pleasanton City Council meeting. The city’s plan to convert to a full-time department followed just two weeks after Escobedo was hired.
“Due to the dwindling number of volunteers and volunteers not being able to make calls because of other full-time jobs, we decided it’s in the best interest of [Pleasanton] residents to have a full-time fire department,” stated Mayor Hall. “We now have faster response times and are readily available 24/7 to the community.”
To date, the department has seven full-time firefighters and will be hiring an eighth in the coming weeks. These firefighters will be paid out of the city budget as they are city employees, meaning the city had to make some adjustments in their current 2019-2020 budget to make this happen.
“We shuffled some city employees around by changing titles and moving some to different departments,” stated Mayor Hall. He further stated that the city worked really hard to make this possible without raising city taxes and does not plan on doing so in the years to come.
“The City of Pleasanton has a full-time staff of paid firefighters 24/7 including holidays year-round and on call,” said Chief Escobedo. “The new changes that will follow will be of great benefit to the city and the department. The department will face new policies, standard and procedures that will reflect what the State of Texas requires for firefighters both volunteer and paid. With all that’s being done and said brings a well stated quote by a Lexipol consultant Billy Goldfeder: ‘The question I would have for chiefs and officers is: What are your policies? What’s your policy on driving? What’s your policy on operations? Now you’ve got to train like that, and on those policies and procedures. Otherwise you’re wide open.’”
With the conversion came many changes and questions regarding the volunteer aspect of the department. Since the changes occurred, many, if not all, of the volunteers have left the department in the past week. Due to liability issues, the city wanted to prevent itself from being sued in case a non-state certified firefighter did something wrong on scene. This meant the city is now requiring all volunteer firefighters to receive the required training to become state certified.
“The city did not ask any of them to leave. We asked them to stay on. I wanted them to stay, but for whatever reason, they decided to resign,” said Mayor Hall.
“The Pleasanton Fire Department also did sign a mutual aid agreement with Atascosa County on June 17 meaning we will continue to assist calls outside of the city limits,” said Mayor Hall.
Escobedo also stated that in response to the situation regarding the Pleasanton Fire Department that it is important for the community of Pleasanton to know the City of Pleasanton Fire Department’s mission which is:
To preserve life and property; promote public safety; and foster community support services in a professional manner. Promote positive attitude, thinking, and always keep things in a perspective manner while doing what’s right for the department and the citizens of Pleasanton and surrounding communities.
“Quality customer service is upheld with high standards following Texas Commission on Fire Protection and State Fireman’s and Fire Marshal’s Association guidelines, rules, standards and laws for paid and volunteer firefighters,” said Escobedo. “It is our responsibility as individuals and a department to stay current and be effective in our career as either volunteer or paid firefighters to enable the City of Pleasanton Fire Department to accomplish its mission ‘preserve life and property’. Our goal is to staff the fire department with this mission in mind.”
As for what will happen with the Pleasanton Volunteer Fire Department, Mayor Hall stated that it is a county matter. When the Pleasanton Express reached out to Atascosa County Judge Bob Hurley for a comment on the matter, he referred us back to the City of Pleasanton. Please look in next week’s issue for a story on what’s next for the Pleasanton Volunteer Fire Department. The Pleasanton Express reached out for public comments to a few of the volunteers. We did not hear back by press time from some volunteer fire fighters and others politely declined to comment.