Two neighboring cities in Starr County held ribbon cutting ceremonies for their first fire stations last week.
Roma unveiled its $788,000 station Aug. 1, and Escobares revealed its $560,000 station Aug. 2. Each city received a Community Development Block Grant — $540,000 for Roma and $531,000 for Escobares — from the Texas Department of Rural Affairs for its station.
Although Roma has had its Fire Department for years, firefighters and police have shared a building, said Alfredo Garza, Roma’s assistant fire chief. The Fire Department, which has three paid employees and about 30 volunteers, outgrew the space.
Response times will be quicker in Roma when its firefighters are on call in the station, Garza said, but they haven’t moved in yet because the bay doors, which won’t close, need to be fixed.
Escobares, which incorporated in 2005, has a new, all-volunteer department of about 21 firefighters, said Chief Juan Jose Guerra, who also works part time as an Escobares police officer and full time as a Pharr firefighter.
The Escobares Fire Department, though, won’t be ready to respond to emergencies until firefighters receive further training, Guerra said.
Even once they are trained, the volunteers will only be able to fight wildfires because they do not have the resources — like breathing equipment — needed for structural fires, Guerra said.
The department has a working brush truck, and it is applying for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to purchase a larger truck, Escobares Mayor Noel Escobar said. The city also needs to buy communication equipment for the station.
Escobar said he will meet with Roma, Starr County and Rio Grande City fire representatives to work out who will respond to which fires.
“We need to sit down,” he said. “The kids are ready to go but we need to have a plan of attack to respond.”
When the Escobares crew is ready, Roma’s firefighters will welcome its assistance, Garza said. It will be a few more years before Roma adds more paid fire staff.
“The more hands, the better it is,” he said.
Gail Burkhardt covers Mission, western Hidalgo County, Starr County and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at (956) 683-4462.