FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 13, 2006
Since 9-11, great attention has been directed to the heroic efforts firefighters exert on a regular basis. But heroism without adequate skills and equipment can prove tragic both to firefighters and to fire victims.
The Texas Legislature established a Commission on Fire Protection in 1991, to help equip and prepare these men and women to better meet the challenges of firefighting.
The Commission's primary focus is on firefighter certification and safety, serving as the state's approval authority for all fire protection training programs conducted at local or state levels. It provides research materials, establishes standards for and inspects personal protective equipment.
One of our own state Representatives, Armando "Mando" Martinez, a member of the Weslaco Fire Department and also a paramedic, wants to give firefighters from the Rio Grande Valley closer access to education and certification.
During the last legislative session, we approved Tuition Revenue Bonds that will provide funds for improvements to the Texas A&M Kingsville Citrus Center in Weslaco. Rep. Martinez is working to see that the Citrus Center allows our Rio Grande Valley firefighters to use the proposed new facilities that will feature interactive classrooms to further their education and certification, since the only location they can currently do so is at Texas A&M University.
The mission of the Fire Protection Commission is to help protect the lives and property of Texas citizens by developing and enforcing professional standards for the fire service. Of the Commission's 13-member board, most are active in the fire service. One of the Commission's public members, former South Padre Island Mayor Peggy Trahan of South Padre Island, comes from District 27.
Since 2001, the Legislature has funded the Commission's Fire Department Emergency Program with more than $6.5 million to distribute to fire departments throughout the state. I have fully supported the nearly $300,000 that has been awarded to departments in District 27 since 2001.
Under this Emergency Program, the following monetary awards were issued: $3,525 to the Brownsville Fire Department for five Texas A&M University scholarships; $5,820 to the Pharr Fire Rescue for four A&M scholarships, plus six nozzles; $14,675 to the San Benito Fire Department for equipment that includes helmets, hoods, coats, and boots, plus five A&M scholarships; and $2,300 to the San Juan Fire Rescue for firefighting devices and training.
"We certainly appreciate Senator Lucio's ongoing attention to the safety of South Texas firefighters," said Gary L. Warren Sr., the commission's executive director. "His support of the Fire Department Emergency Program helps ensure that all Texas fire departments get critical equipment when they need it most."
In my district, which includes Cameron, part of Hidalgo, Willacy, Kenedy and Kleberg counties, there are approximately 650 certified firefighters employed. Additionally, the Commission estimates there are 1,200 to 1,500 volunteer firefighters in the district. It was good to learn that we currently have no shortage of paid fire fighters in this area. However, the need for certified, thoroughly trained firefighters is very serious here and throughout the state.
Besides putting out fires, we rely on these professionals to respond to automobile accidents and other distress calls for which those also certified as paramedics render medical aid. They educate our children in the classroom about not playing with matches and how to react if their clothing catches on fire. We have also all heard of a fire truck rushing to the scene of a cat stranded atop a tall tree. Although it may invoke laughter, it is nonetheless part of the job.
Other critical fire protection activities, like fire suppression and building inspections, are performed by other agencies and authorities at local and state levels. The Fire Protection Commission acts as a resource by helping Texans identify the proper agencies to address the public's fire protection needs. The Commission oversees roughly 575 paid fire departments and 290 fire training sites throughout the state.
To echo the sentiments of the Commission to firefighting and most of all, to safety and education, I quote from its motto: "We consider it an honor to serve these people [firefighters]. We recognize their dedication, skill and courage, and we are committed to performing our mission in a manner that enhances their knowledge and safety."
Thank you to the firefighters of South Texas and to their brothers and sisters who have been injured or lost their lives while trying to save someone else's.
As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385.