Annaville Fire Station No. 3 has historically been a volunteer-only station, but now the department is planning to add full-time staff to the station. According to EMS Lieutenant Kevin Ramon, there is no exact timetable to when the station will have 24/7 staffing, but there are already day side full-time members, and the hope is to have five full-time members.
The station currently operates with 15 volunteer members. One of those members is Javier De La Paz, who has been a volunteer at the station for four years.
"I was always interested in helping out the community. It always interested me seeing those fire trucks leave when I was a kid, it made me want to join as I got older,” he said.
The station services an area of Nueces County that is largely rural and spread out. The hope is adding staffing will benefit the community by providing more services, and faster response times.
“This area has been unstaffed and unmanned for quite a while. Seeing more trucks and faster response times is going to be a huge benefit to this community,” De La Paz said.
“The problem with this area here is it was once considered ‘no man's land.’ We had delays in response times, certainly these people deserve to have an ambulance and fire truck a little bit closer to their homes, and we're able to cut down on that response time tremendously by being out here,” Ramon said.
One person who knows how important the response time can be is Terri Kimmel. Kimmel lives down the street from the station, and her family lost their house to a fire in 2009.
“The fireman had to come from further away, and actually the sheriff's deputies got here first. But, if they're right down the road, it would be more comforting to know that their service is closer by,” she said.
Kimmel said the fire was started around 2:00 a.m. when a blanket got caught by a space heater. By the time the fire truck arrived, the fire had already spread throughout the house. She said having the full-time staff closer adds peace of mind to the community.
She is also friendly with some of the volunteers at the station, and said having the full-time staff around is a good influence on her sons.
Another added benefit of having more staff is the station being able to provide aid to other departments.
Ramon said the Annaville Fire Department provides a lot of mutual aid to departments in the area, and adding staff means more trucks available to help out. He also said having an extra ambulance in rotation during peak hours is also important with COVID-19 numbers spiking.
De La Paz hopes to make the transition from volunteer to full-time worker, and having the volunteer experience puts him in a good position to do so.
“I started learning the jurisdiction, I started learning all our SOGs (standard operating guidelines) and protocols, and I’m familiar with all our equipment and how to operate it. So, it kind of benefits starting off as a volunteer, so you can have that head start once you start, instead of going into a new department kind of blind,” he said.
The station will still rely on help from volunteer firefighters, and they will receive the same kind of training that full-time staff receive.
“We’re not going to put them in unsafe situations. We always make sure that we provide them with the proper training, but we do have them on days they're able to come help us. We always appreciate that,” Ramon said.
Anyone interested in volunteering or working full-time for the Annaville Fire Department can get information on how to do so on their website, or by calling the administrative office at 361-241-1372.