Blaze rips through mobile home

Firefighters were called to 313 County Road 4869 near Briar just before midnight Saturday as a blaze devoured a mobile home.

Boyd Firefighter Mason Del Castillo, who is also a shift supervisor, said the house was fully involved when the first crew arrived.

Initial reports on the police scanner indicated there might have been a small explosion, but Del Castillo said that wasn’t true.

“There was some popping when we got here … it could have been leftover fireworks or maybe ammunition,” he said. “But there was no actual explosion.”

Jeff Doughty with the Wise County Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of the fire.  In addition to Boyd, several other departments were also on scene, as well as Wise County EMS and a sheriff’s deputy.

The homeowner was not at the property when the fire started. More information will be posted as it’s available.





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New Boyd fire hall a piece of the puzzle

“If you build it….”

The Boyd Volunteer Fire Department hopes they will come – and not just the public, this Saturday, to an open house at their new fire station.

They hope the facility can help rekindle some interest in volunteer firefighting in the growing south Wise County community.

Open for Business

OPEN FOR BUSINESS – Randy Ingram, fire chief for Wise County ESD No. 1, hopes the new Fire Station 12 at Boyd will not only draw lots of folks for its open house this Saturday, but also help the department attract more volunteers. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Randy Ingram, ESD No. 1 Chief, is proud of the new fire hall – but he’s truly excited about the prospect of staffing it with well-trained, well-equipped firefighters who respond and know what to do in any kind of emergency.

This is the second time Ingram, a veteran professional firefighter who retired from Arlington FD in 2006, has helped a rural fire district move into a new facility. He did the same thing in Parker County for the Springtown and LaJunta fire departments.

But training – not building – is his real passion.

Ingram said the roster at Boyd VFD has “about 25” firefighters on it – but the active core is much smaller.

“We have about 10 who really contribute and make the calls,” he said. “The rest of them are just kind of hit-and-miss because of their work, their other responsibilities.

“I understand that – but we’ve really got room for another 10 or so.”

Ingram works three days a week as chief of Wise County Emergency Services District No. 1. He started there almost two years ago and was first to move into the new station, located at 545 S. Allen St. (Farm Road 730 South).

“They moved me down here pretty quick after the building was completed,” he said. He set up the phone system and got the computers working, but on Monday morning there were still lots of details to attend to – TVs for the break room and training room, washers and dryers for clothing and bunker gear, some electrical hookups for the equipment bay and the room where equipment to recharge firefighters’ air packs is located.

The ice machine is on an extension cord because it kept throwing the breaker on its GFCI outlet, and Ingram is still trying to find owners’ manuals on all the new equipment.

“I’m working on a punch-list,” he said.

The cornerstone dedication and open house are 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 3. Of course, the department wants everything shiny and sharp when the public walks through the door.

At just over 9,700 square feet, the nearly $2 million facility dwarfs the old fire station in both size and technology. It has six equipment bays, a sprinkler system, a fire alarm system, a backup generator, several offices and a spacious kitchen/dayroom/classroom. It’s ADA compliant and has separate facilities for men and women. There’s even an exercise room, if Ingram can locate some workout equipment.

“I really think the taxpayers got their money’s worth out of this deal,” he said. “We want them to come down on Saturday and go through this place. It’s theirs. We want them to see where their money’s going.”

Ingram said the ESD, which collects a 3-cent property tax rate on about 80 square miles in and around Boyd, was extremely prudent with its money for years before collecting enough that they could build and equip the new fire station.

“They saved up,” Ingram said. “I give the board tremendous credit for being thrifty with the taxpayers’ money and being able to get a million dollars in the bank. Then it comes to the point where you say ‘hey, we’ve got to do something with this million dollars.'”

He said the old fire station, which is about a third the size of the new one, was inefficient to heat and cool, too small, old and outdated in many ways.

“We had to do something,” he said.

The new station is tilt-wall concrete construction, with Speed Fab-Crete of Kennedale serving as the general contractor. There are water lines in the spacious equipment bay to re-fill the tankers, and pull-down electric cords will be installed to recharge batteries on the units.

A diesel-powered generator out back could run the place for several days in the event of a power outage – one reason Ingram can envision it serving as an emergency operations center, with the Boyd Police and Wise County EMS able to use it as well.

Right now, he’d just like to have more volunteer firefighters and continue to work on their training.

“The ESD furnishes everything,” he said. “The VFD won’t have a single bill to pay when they get moved over here – we’re even picking up their satellite TV bill, plus giving them their own budget during the year to operate with.”

The ESD also provides workers comp and accidental death insurance through the State Firefighters and Fire Marshals Association (SFFMA).

Ingram said the idea is to have a department that can serve the needs of citizens.

“Obviously, we want to keep the taxes low – that’s what we need to do for the taxpayers. But we’re getting to the point where we’re having so many calls … I would like to have enough money to at least compensate my volunteers, give them some kind of stipend.”

Ingram and VFD Chief Jonas McIntire hope to set up a scheduling system for volunteers, where they have assigned eight-hour blocks. That would not only provide better coverage and response times – it would also help with training, much of which Ingram can provide himself.

At lot has changed since 1967, when Ingram first volunteered as a sophomore in high school.

“This is not your grandpa’s volunteer fire department,” he said. “There’s more required of you now than ever before – things are a lot more dangerous now than when I started, simply because of how building construction is now.

“They built houses and businesses back then to last a long time – you still see some of them standing in downtowns everywhere. Nowadays, they build stuff out of plastics and synthetics and rubber – it’s a totally different environment. It’s hotter, and it’s more dangerous.”

He said he understands that volunteers do not have unlimited time for training.

“I’m trying to work them towards some certification levels – not only in fire, but also in EMS,” he said, noting that of the 1,000 or so calls the department receives in a year, 75 percent are EMS calls.

Boyd VFD is a certified first-responder and works “really well” with Wise County EMS, whose operation is just across the street. They have the same medical director and use the same set of protocols. Ingram just wishes he had more firefighters certified as EMTs.

“It takes a lot to get it, and sometimes they just can’t take off work,” he said. “When you put them through this type of training, and you document it and you get them certification, it tells me that they’re safer, they’re smarter, they’re more effective and they’re more efficient for the taxpayer.”

The bottom line is not only public safety, but also the safety of the firefighters themselves.

“I want them to be safe,” Ingram said. “I want everybody to go home. The way they can do that – and there are no guarantees – but the way to give them a shot at it is to make sure they’re trained correctly.

“Fire doesn’t care if you get a paycheck or not.”

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