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The City of Willow Park was incorporated in 1963 and consisted of about 300 residents. It took eight years before the first official Fire Department was established in 1971. The original name was Willow Park Volunteer Fire Department Inc.
The first fire truck was a 1953 Ford named "Old Whitey". It was purchased by the Willow Park Civic League and donated to the department in October, 1965. With a lot of effort the 1953 Ford was equipped with a radio and a 600 gallon tank. "Old Whitey" was the departments only radio equipped truck at the time. The truck was finally reported working and operational on March 11, 1971. Though operational it still did not have all the equipment needed by the Volunteer Fire department.
By May of 1971 land at 101 W. Stagecoach Trail had been obtained on which to build a Fire Station. By July 22, 1971 building permits were approved and grading had begun. With combined efforts of the community the building was completed on November 11, 1971, located right next to the City Hall.
During the winter months a gas heater was used in the mid portion of Station #1 to keep the water in the trucks and the members from freezing. Since radios were few and far between, "fire phones" were utilized to alert fire department members of a fire call. There were seven members on the "fire phones" to assure someone was home to answer an "alert call". Those members would then call other members which would call others and so on. It was the only way to get firefighters to the station to respond to the call.
Eventually, a small two stall garage was built at 3508 Indian Camp Road on the north end of town and the department members would meet there as it was warmer than the Fire Station #1. Over the years Willow Park Fire Department acquired more vehicles and Station #2 was used to store them.
In the early days the Ladies Auxiliary members raised money for the department through dinners and chili suppers, and often fought fires themselves while the men were at their own jobs during the day.
Membership varied in the early years from small numbers to as many as 30. By 1980, the census reported 1,113 residents within the City limits and needs for water and services increased. Thanks to those early "volunteer members" we are where we are today. Their hard work and dedication provided the foundation for our department.
Several of the department members attended emergency medical technician and paramedic classes becoming state certified. The department was then in the position to legally respond on emergency medical service calls inside the city. Many times the department was on scene long before the ambulance service providing cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid, or oxygen therapy to the patient. The department registered as a first responder organization (FRO) in the early nineties and the departments FRO expired with the state in 1998. In 1998 the department stopped responding on emergency medical service calls for several reasons. Many of the volunteer members did not want to retain or become certified EMS responders and the department was not being reimbursed by the county hospital district. For any reason this valuable service to the citizens of Willow Park was gone over night proving in the future that first responder emergency medical services provided by the Fire Department was a necessity.
Another area the department started to advance in at this time was commercial safety inspections. With the growth of commercial occupancies in the city the department started to realize the importance of fire prevention. Fire Prevention killed two birds with one stone. It familiarized the firefighters of the layout of the commercial structures in the event of a fire, and hopefully prevented safety hazards before anything happened.
In the year 2000, the U.S. census reported a population of 2,849 inside the City of Willow Park and the department witnessed major commercial and residential growth inside the City of Willow Park. Engine-35 a 2000 Freightliner E-One was purchased and placed into service.
In 2004 the department went through a major overhaul. Differences between the department and the City officials led to the merger of the Willow Park Volunteer Fire Department and the Willow Park Fire/Rescue. The newly merged Fire Department was renamed as the Willow Park Fire/Rescue Department. A Willow Park citizen, Jim Poythress donated $200,000 to assist with the newly merged department. The City Council adopted an agreement with the Willow Park Fire/Rescue Department and started providing an operating budget for the department every year.
In 2004 the department started responding on emergency medical services again with one EMT and one ECA at the time, to the department, which was vital for the residents of Willow Park. The department worked under an umbrella first responder organization (FRO) through the Campbell Emergency Response Team (CERT). With only four ambulances serving Parker County at the time the department played a major role with stabilizing patients long before the ambulance arrived on the emergency scene.
In 2005 Station #1 and Station #2 were overhauled to bring them up to standards. Station #2 continued to serve as storage for small brush trucks and reserve equipment.
In March 2005 the department changed its structure from a volunteer Fire Department to a combination Fire Department. The city provided additional funding to the department to hire three full-time firefighters. The three worked Monday through Friday 6am-6pm. The newly hired firefighters started to inspect the cities fire hydrants and record flow rates. The full-time firefighters also revamped the fire/safety commercial occupancy inspections. With the hiring of its first paid firefighters the departments ISO rating dropped from a 7/9 to a 6/9, which assisted with lowering insurance rates for Willow Park residents. Seven months later in October 2005, two additional full-time firefighters were hired to allow three firefighters to be on duty Monday through Friday 6am-6pm.
With an increase in call volumes due to continued commercial and residential growth, more service calls continued to go unanswered during volunteer hours. In 2006 the department experimented with volunteer EMS shifts on nights and weekends to try and fix the on going issue. The volunteer shifts lasted six months before the volunteer's could not pull the demanding volunteer EMS shifts no longer due to careers and family time.
In November 2006 the department started to be regulated by the Texas Commission on Fire Protection. Also in 2006 the department purchased a new 2006 Chevy Attack Truck. The apparatus was funding by the city and immediately placed into service in 2006 upon delivery to serve the citizens of Willow Park. The department started to become more involved with plan reviews on new commercial occupancies for life safety purposes. In 2007 the department approached the city council on the issue of service calls going unanswered during volunteer hours. The city council decided to fund 24/7 Fire, EMS, and Rescue services for its citizens. In February 2008 the department officially switched to 24/7 around the clock coverage. With two full-time firefighters on 24/7 backed up by the volunteer staff. Immediately paying off the first of many life saves came in the first month, the department was dispatched to an EMS difficulty breathing call inside the city. Engine-35 responded and made scene within minutes. Engine-35's crew found the patient and witnessed the patient go into full arrest. Engine-35's crew immediately initiated CPR. Several minutes later the ambulance arrived on scene. Before the ambulance crew could administer advance life support procedures the patients heart beat and breathing returned from Engine-35's crew administering CPR. The patient was transported to a landing zone where a medical helicopter was waiting. Before the patient was loaded she was talking to the first responder crews. The Willow Park citizen made a full recovery. Reinforcing the fact 24/7 coverage was a must for the growing City of Willow Park.
In 2008 the department secured $50,000 from a private resident on the north side of the city to assist with reconstruction of Station #2 at 3508 Indian Camp Road. At the end of 2008 a new 3600 square foot, three bay Station #2 was completed. The new Station #2 became an operating volunteer station. Also in 2008 the department also secured $185,000 in state and federal grant funds to purchase a new 2008 F-750 Brush Truck. Rescue Jacks, EMS monitors, new skid unit for Brush-235, Training DVD library and insurance reimbursement.
The department also tested for a new ISO rating in 2008. With combined full-time firefighters, a great public works department, and a good dispatching center the Fire Department received a 4/8b ISO rating, lowering the insurance rates even more.
All new and current residents, visitors, and businesses of the City should be assured that the Willow Park Fire/Rescue and the City of Willow Park are operating in close cooperation to provide 24/7 Fire, EMS, and Rescue services for the citizens and businesses of Willow Park.
March 31st, 2011 6:56 AM CDT