As Midlothian continues to expand, services provided by the fire department are regularly evaluated to ensure it meets the needs of a growing population.
Since 2000 there has been a 57 percent increase in the number of emergency calls responded to by firefighters. In fact, Midlothian firefighters are on track to make about 4,200 calls this year.
Midlothian Assistant Fire Chief Philip Brancato stated the department works to keep ahead of the growth by regularly looking its operations.
“A lot of folks get frustrated with the growth. Every city goes through this stuff and has for years. At the end of the day if you don’t get in front of the curve it is going to be impossible to catch up a lot of times,” Brancato said. “What we have done is we have updated our strategic plan, which is a five-year plan, every year. That includes apparatus, people, facilities and so forth.”
Brancato stated last year the city gave its approval for the department to bring its staffing level to 19 per shift.
The goal of the department is to get where it can staff a minimum of four firefighters on each engine. Current staffing levels allow the department to staff a fire engine with a minimum of three people.
According to the National Fire Protection Association website, there were 1,160,459 local firefighters across the country in 2015. Of those, 30 percent were career firefighters, while the remaining 70 percent were volunteers. The study showed departments protecting larger communities tend to have a higher portion of firefighters in the age groups 30-39. Smaller cities have firefighters who average 40-49 years of age.
The five-year plan has outlined the need for several new positions on the administrative side of its operations. These positions would include a new inspector for the fire marshal’s office and a battalion chief to serve as a fire training officer.
“We have in our strategic plan in the next few years to hire a training chief. I am over the training, but I am also over the daily operations,” Brancato said. “What happens is if you have one person doing multiple jobs it is hard to dedicate the needed time for that.”
Brancato stated while the department’s training has come a long way the new dedicated position would take it a step further in providing continued quality service to residents.
The increase in call volume is driving the department to evaluate its resources. This year firefighters are answering more than 280 calls each month. To handle that increased the department is looking at adding a new station within the next 10 years or sooner. The amount and location of emergency calls determine the station’s site.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency website reports that fire departments responded to 23,315,600 incident calls in 2014. Almost 64 percent of the reported calls to fire departments required emergency medical services and rescue services.
Only five percent of those calls were fire-related, while eight percent of reported runs involved mutual or automatic aid.
“When I came here in 2000, Midlothian had about 7,000 people in the city. I am confident that the next census will be over 30,000,” Brancato said. “With the growth, people want to get further out. They are tired of opening their door and talking with five neighbors.”
The department is in the process of adding new resources. Voters approved to replace fire station No.1 on North Eight Street to a property west of Main Street and U.S. Highway 287 and add a training facility in November. The current station No. 1 has served the city for more than 55 years. The city has never had a training facility but has had to utilize other agency’s resources.
Brancato stated the department is looking to evaluate and refocus on the role it plays in the Ellis Dallas Unified Cooperative Team. This organization allows several departments to combine efforts and resources that a single department might not have available. Through mutual aid agreements, members respond to others emergencies as needed. Midlothian supplies personnel to the group.
The other members that make up this group include Duncanville, Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Glenn Heights, Ovilla, Red Oak, Ferris, Ennis and the Waxahachie Fire Departments.
A similar organization is the Southern Regional Response Group, which is a regional SWAT team. It is made up of law enforcement officers from Dallas, and Ellis Counties and share equipment and resources. Midlothian along with Red Oak, Ovilla, DeSoto, Lancaster, Glenn Heights, Cedar Hill, Seagoville, and the Highland Park Police Departments make up the team.
Brancato shared the department is excited about the growth taking place in the community and are working to stay ahead of the curve.