Fire Weather Watch issued for Tuesday, Wednesday


After a busy weekend battling grass fires, Wise County firefighters could potentially face another pair of challenging days.
The National Weather Service in Fort Worth has issued a Fire Weather Watch for the county from 11 a.m. Tuesday through 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“It’s more of the same — dry fuels, breezy winds, warmer than average temperature and low humidity,” said Jennifer Dunn, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. “Conditions will be ripe for fires.”
Tuesday, winds are expected to be around 15 mph and temperatures in the low 60s. Wednesday, high temperatures are predicted to hit the low 70s with winds gusting to 25 to 30 mph. On both days, the humidity levels will be in the 20s.
“Locations to the west [of Wise County] will be in the teens,” Dunn said about the humidity level.
Decatur Fire Chief Mike Richardson said the forecast brings some uneasiness after several busy weeks. He said the department has responded to more than 200 calls this month. The department generally averages between 150 and 160 calls per month.
“We’re struggling to keep up,” Richardson said.
“Usually on a wildfire we try to get a lot of people there early. The problem lately is we’ve had them all at the same time.”
Wise County Fire Marshal Jeff Doughty said dispatch reported 29 calls over the weekend for fires. He cautioned that some of the calls were duplicates.
Doughty added that Paradise, Boyd and Bridgeport departments were staffing their stations Tuesday for the potential of fire.
Conditions will improve slightly with a cold front Thursday, Dunn said. But the county is not expected to see longterm relief from the current dry pattern. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday showed moderate drought in Wise County.
In the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI), which measures the wildfire potential by taking into account the soil moisture, the county average is 414 on a scale ranging from 0 to 800. The top end of the scale represents completely dry conditions.
“Unfortunately there’s no relief in the next seven to 10 days,” Dunn said.

Print This Page Print This Page

Posted in Breaking News, Update0 Comments

Rust earns Firefighter of the Year


Taking Home Honors

TAKING HOME HONORS – Decatur honored several firefighters during its annual banquet Saturday. The honorees included, left to right, Eli Nobles, Dennis Bailey, Chris Mercer, Levi Rust, Deroy Bennett and Brad Largent. Submitted photo

Decatur honored its top firefighters Saturday at an annual awards banquet at the Decatur Conference Center.

“The Decatur Fire Department is an exemplary group of public servants,” said Sheriff Lane Akin, keynote speaker for the event attended by more than 100 persons. Akin compared the work of public servants and first responders in his speech.

Levi Rust was named Firefighter of the Year. Rust began his career as a volunteer and became a career firefighter in October.

Rust is a Decatur High School graduate.

Deputy Fire Chief/Fire Marshal Deroy Bennett, a 15-year veteran with the department, was named the Fire Officer of the Year.

Three firefighters were honored with community service awards. Levi Rust, Evan Davis and Garrett Bennett received awards for more than 900 community service hours in 2017.

Volunteer firefighter Evan Davis received EMS First Responder of the Year. Davis, a career firefighter in Bedford, received the “rookie of the year” award in Bedford the same night as the Decatur banquet.

Decatur’s Rookie of the Year award was presented to Brad Largent.

Chris Mercer was named instructor of the year. Eric Kurfehs and Aaron Mann garnered the lifesaving award. Eli Nobles earned Excellence in Leadership.

Dean Tennyson was honored with the Fire Chief’s Award.

Dennis Bailey received the PhD award, and Captain Nate Mara received the National Fire Academy Managing Officer Program award.

Four firefighters were honored by the state for their work in the Hurricane Harvey Recovery program – Chief Mike Richardson, Captain Cliff Oates and firefighters Levi Rust and Todd Nelson.

Richardson also received the TEEX Fire Service Chief Executive Officer program award.

The Decatur department has 12 career firefighters and 31 volunteers. In 2017, firefighters earned 8,193 training hours in 85 separate classes taught by 22 instructors. The average training hours per member totaled 248.

Boyd firefighters covered the Decatur fire district during the Saturday banquet.

Print This Page Print This Page

Posted in News0 Comments

Smiles for Santa


First Christmas

FIRST CHRISTMAS – Santa Claus cradles Emery Sereika for a memorable “first Christmas” moment Saturday during Breakfast with Santa at Decatur Fire Hall. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Visiting Santa claus

VISITING SANTA CLAUS – Ava and Karsyn Monjaraz check with Santa to make sure they’re on the nice list. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Visiting Santa claus 2

Sophia Martinez tells Santa Claus what she wants for Christmas this year. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Breakfast is Served

BREAKFAST IS SERVED – A Decatur firefighter cooks pancakes Saturday morning at the fire hall for a breakfast feast before Santa Claus arrives. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Print This Page Print This Page

Posted in Photo Features0 Comments

Santa visits neighborhoods


Santa on the Streets

Santa’s back, and he’s ready to make his annual tour through the streets of Decatur with the help of his good friends at the Decatur Fire Department.

“Santa on the Streets” will take place Sunday through Thursday. Santa will visit a different neighborhood each night.

While most visits will take place daily between 5 and 9 p.m., Sunday’s tour will begin a little early for some neighborhoods.

Santa will begin visiting Reatta Estates, Decatur Acres, Holly Ridge and Seven Wires at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Santa and his fire department escorts will pause for a photo. Parents are asked to have their cameras ready and limit photos to one or two so they can stay on schedule.

Motorists should also watch for the fire trucks and for kids who are coming out to greet Santa.

Print This Page Print This Page

Posted in News0 Comments

Holiday road: Residents look forward to Santa’s annual tour

Holiday road: Residents look forward to Santa’s annual tour


Riding in Style

RIDING IN STYLE – Decatur Deputy Fire Chief Deroy Bennett and his son, Caleb, help drive Santa through the streets of Decatur. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

What does Santa do in the days leading up to Christmas?

In Decatur, he makes house calls.

As part of the Decatur Fire Department’s annual Santa on the Street holiday program, Saint Nick traverses the town in a Honda SXS all-terrain vehicle, escorted by emergency vehicles blaring sirens and flashing lights, calling a hoard of eager kids, parents, dogs, cats and at least one chicken.

The event is nightly for one week, with Santa’s entourage touring a few neighborhoods each evening and passing out candy canes to residents waiting in their yards.

Santa’s driver, Deputy Fire Chief Deroy Bennett, said the ratio of kids and adults that come out to see Santa is closer than most would think. “One thing you’ll notice is we get just as many older folks coming out to take pictures with Santa,” he said. “This is a good night for almost everyone.”

Bennett said Santa’s crew will occasionally encounter an impatient driver. However, the same rules regarding emergency vehicles in emergency situations also apply during the escort – back off when the lights and sirens are activated.

When stopped though, traffic carefully snakes around the vehicles as neighbors out to dinner or church try to get home before Santa passes their block.

Decatur resident Shannon Baugh waited in her yard with her sister, Sarah and niece, Lillie. Sarah and Lillie drove from Bowie in hopes of seeing Santa make his run through town.

“They don’t do anything like this in Bowie,” she said.

Bennett said the idea came from his time working at the Lewisville Fire Department. The larger department would seat Santa on top of a fire engine to drive through town.

“They didn’t have time to stop,” he said. “Santa could just wave and toss candy, but it’s a bigger town. I thought it would be a good idea here.”

With a few changes, the program came to Decatur 16 years ago. Over time, the route has been altered and the department has used different sponsors for Santa’s ride, but other than that, he said, the spirit of the Decatur event remains the same. Santa tours the neighborhoods, stopping for hugs and to pose for photos, passing out candy canes to everyone along the way.

Bennett said the department hands out around 2,000 candy canes each year.

For Sarah Baugh, the personal part of the night meant the most to her daughter. Lillie could hear Santa coming from a good distance away and knew he was there for her.

“The sirens are a plus,” Baugh said. “She was like, ‘Mom, Mom, he’s almost here.’ Her face was priceless.”

Hugs for Santa

HUGS FOR SANTA – Alex and Joselyne Montello greet Santa in their yard. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

A Gift For You

A GIFT FOR YOU – Kynzlie Trachta passes back a gift to Santa during his rounds this week. Bennett said residents may sometimes offer snacks or donations to Santa and the firefighters. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Group Shot

GROUP SHOT – Daisy, Zyla, Kaitlyn and Yajely Flores pose for a photo with Santa. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Print This Page Print This Page

Posted in Features, News0 Comments

Serving Up Holiday Spirit


Mixed Emotions

MIXED EMOTIONS – Sisters Sophie and Bindi Davis react to a meeting with Santa Saturday at the Decatur Fire Station. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Star Chefs

STAR CHEFS – Decatur Firefighters Kris Anderson and Andy Wood prepare pancakes for visitors to the Decatur Fire Station Saturday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Photo Op

PHOTO OP – Stacey and Colby Byers, Ava and Karsyn Monjaraz and Deroy and Kristi Bennett have their photo taken with Santa at the station. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Holiday Hangout

HOLIDAY HANGOUT – Kaydene and Jackson Boyd, of Decatur, sit with Santa at the station. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Print This Page Print This Page

Posted in Photo Features0 Comments

Santa’s comin’ to town


Santa on the Streets

A much-anticipated holiday tradition kicks off Sunday as Santa begins his tour through the city escorted by the Decatur Fire Department.

The annual trek through neighborhoods runs Dec. 11-15 with Santa visiting a different neighborhood each night.

Firefighters begin their route nightly at 5:30 p.m. and aim to finish around 9 p.m. so kids can get in bed.

Santa and his helpers will pause for a photo, however organizers ask that parents have their cameras ready and limit photos to one or two.

“We encourage group pictures,” Deputy Fire Chief Deroy Bennett said. “Santa’s got a busy schedule and has a lot of kids to see.”

In addition, the department asks for the cooperation of drivers.

“As Santa’s moving around [on a light utility vehicle], we have a fire truck in front of Santa and a fire truck behind him, and we do a rolling block for the safety of the kids, Santa and his helpers,” Bennett said. “We appreciate their understanding and courtesy.”

For information, call the Decatur Fire Department at 940-627-3199.

Look for photos in an upcoming edition of the Messenger.

Print This Page Print This Page

Posted in News0 Comments

Mercer named Firefighter of the Year


Chris Mercer was honored as Firefighter of the Year at the annual Decatur Fire Department Honors Banquet last week at the Decatur Civic Center.

Captain Nate Mara, who is the department’s training officer, said that the 36 members of the department were involved in 5,600 hours of training in 70 different courses during the year. Connor McDaniel was honored for devoting 604 hours in training, and Levi Rust devoted 435 hours in training. Both are volunteer members of the department.

Captain Cliff Oates, who is the department’s master mechanic, was honored as Fire Officer of the Year.

“During the past year, Cliff and his crew have saved us more than $60,000 in repair costs on our equipment by their attention to maintenance and repair issues,” said Chief Mike Richardson.

The EMS Responder of the Year was Brady Murphree, while McDaniel was named Rookie of the Year.

Excellence in customer service awards were presented to Eli Nobles, Todd Nelson and Mara.

Print This Page Print This Page

Posted in News0 Comments

Pilot brings fireman home, honored

Pilot brings fireman home, honored


A Big Thanks

A BIG THANKS – Andy Wood, a Decatur firefighter/paramedic, helped present pilot Fabio LaBrada with a Community Service Award at the Decatur Fire Department’s annual banquet Saturday. When Wood was injured in a riding accident in San Antonio, LaBrada, a pilot who operates Raquel’s Wings for Life, flew him back home. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

When an off-duty Decatur firefighter was injured in an accident in San Antonio, wheels back home were set in motion to bring him back to Wise County quickly.

Firefighter/Paramedic Andy Wood and his wife, Valerie, had gone to San Antonio to look at a horse when the horse spooked and threw Wood. He was taken to a San Antonio area hospital, treated and released.

“I’ve been a paramedic for more years than I care to remember, and I just knew his injuries were more severe than the hospital there thought,” Fire Chief Mike Richardson said at the department’s annual honors banquet Saturday.

Richardson and Deputy Chief Deroy Bennett got to work to get Wood and his wife back to Decatur. That’s where relationships with the San Marcos Fire Department and Decatur pilot Fabio LaBrada paid off quickly.

“The San Marcos fire chief and one of his firefighters went to San Antonio and picked up Andy and his wife and drove their truck back to San Marcos where Fabio and Decatur firefighter Brandon Myers met them at the San Marcos airport.

While Myers drove Wood’s truck back to Wise County, LaBrada, who operates Raquel’s Wings for Life, flew Andy and Valerie back to the Decatur Airport where a Decatur engine company met the plane.

In appreciation of LaBrada’s efforts, Richardson presented the department’s Community Service Award to him at the annual banquet. Wood, who recently returned to work, helped Richardson present the award.

Men of Honor

MEN OF HONOR – Joe Boyd, Dennis Bailey, Kris Anderson, Jonathan Guerrero and Captain Nate Mara were honored at Decatur Fire Department’s annual banquet Saturday. Boyd received EMS Responder of the Year. Bailey was named Rookie of the Year, Anderson earned Fireman of the Year, Guerrero received the Customer Service Award and Mara was named Fire Officer of the Year. Submitted photo

Kris Anderson was presented the department’s “Fireman of the Year” award at the banquet attended by more than 200 people at the Central Fire Station. State Master Firefighter Certifications were presented to Richardson and Captains Nate Mara and Cliff Oates.

Other awards included Rookie of the Year to Dennis Bailey, EMS Responder of the Year Joe Boyd, Fire Officer of the Year Captain Nate Mara and Customer Service Award to Jonathan Guerrero.

Decatur has a combination paid and volunteer department of 43 members. Top volunteer hours awards went to Evan Davis, Brandon Myers and Paul Hensley. The top training hours award was presented to Myers.

Mara, who heads the department’s training division, said firefighters spent 6,774 hours in training last year.

Richardson said the department answered 1,526 calls in 2015, more than 60 percent of them medical calls. The department has six fire apparatus.

Print This Page Print This Page

Posted in Features, News0 Comments

Santa hits the streets


Santa on the Streets

A much-anticipated holiday tradition kicks off Sunday as Santa begins his tour through the city escorted by the Decatur Fire Department.

The annual trek through neighborhoods runs Dec. 13-17 with Santa visiting a different neighborhood each night.

Firefighters begin their route nightly at 5 p.m. and aim to finish around 9 p.m. so kids can get in bed.

Santa and his helpers will pause for a photo, however organizers ask that parents have their cameras ready and limit photos to one or two.

“We encourage group pictures,” Deputy Fire Chief Deroy Bennett said. “Santa’s got a busy schedule and has a lot of kids to see.”

In addition, the department asks for the cooperation of drivers.

“As Santa’s moving around [on a light utility vehicle], we have a fire truck in front of Santa and a fire truck behind him, and we do a rolling block for the safety of the kids, Santa and his helpers,” Bennett said. “We appreciate their understanding and courtesy.”

For information, call the Decatur Fire Department at 940-627-3199.

Look for photos in an upcoming edition of the Messenger.

Print This Page Print This Page

Posted in News0 Comments

Firefighters honored at annual banquet


Andy Wood was named Decatur Firefighter of the Year Saturday at the department’s annual honors banquet.

Wood, a firefighter and paramedic, was recognized along with other department members for his hard work and dedication.

Service Recognized

SERVICE RECOGNIZED – Decatur firefighters that received awards at last weekend’s banquet include (from left) Andy Wood, Ruben Galindo, Brandon Peyton, Evan Davis and Jed Boyd. Submitted photo

Firefighter Brandon Peyton picked up three awards. Peyton, formerly a lieutenant in the department’s volunteer division and now a paid member of the department, was recognized for being the first member of the department to receive certification from two state agencies that certify volunteer and paid firefighters.

He was also honored for volunteering more than 800 hours to the department and was named Fire Officer of the Year.

Other volunteer firefighters honored for service in 2014 included Ryan Davis, James Murawski and Stephen Tye – all three volunteered more than 500 hours to the fire service.

The department’s Rookie of the Year award was presented to Evan Davis, while the EMS Responder of the Year was Ruben Galindo. Jed Boyd received the department’s Customer Service Award.

Bridgeport firefighters were at the Decatur Fire Station to answer any calls during the banquet.

Print This Page Print This Page

Posted in News0 Comments