Tag Archives: Amarillo Fire Department

Public safety: it’s important at many levels


“SHALL the City Council of the City of Amarillo, Texas, be authorized to issue general obligation bonds of the City in the principal amount of $20,080,000 for permanent public improvements and public purposes, to wit:  acquiring, constructing, improving, renovating, expanding and equipping public safety facilities; such bonds to mature serially or otherwise over a period not to exceed twenty-five (25) years from their date, to be issued and sold in one or more series at any price or prices and to bear interest at any rate or rates (fixed, floating, variable or otherwise) as shall be determined within the discretion of the City Council at the time of issuance or sale of the bonds; and whether ad valorem taxes shall be levied upon all taxable property in the City sufficient to pay the annual interest and provide a sinking fund to pay the bonds at maturity?”

Proposition 2 on the Nov. 8 Amarillo municipal election ballot

I don’t know this to be a stone-cold fact, but it’s probably true.

Ask any resident of any city of significant size about the issue that concerns them the most, they well might answer it has something to do with police and fire protection.

If the city is going to provide top-flight law enforcement and fire protection services, then it falls on the residents who demand it to pay for it.

Makes sense, yes?

Sure it does!

Proposition 2 proposes to spend $20 million on improvements to police and fire services.

It seeks to add new fire stations, replacing current stations that no longer are functional. It seeks to spend nearly $500,000 on assorted “police service improvements.”

This proposition likely will get voters’ endorsement when they go to the polls on Nov. 8. The city has pitched seven ballot measures at residents, asking them to support them all at a cost of more than $340 million. The public safety element is but a fraction of the total cost.

However, public safety always remains at the top of voters’ concerns about the level of government they get from City Hall.


My hope is that this proposition gets the voters’ wholehearted approval in November.

If we are going to insist on top-of-the-line public safety services, we have to be ready to pay for it.

City suffers PR schizophrenia

Amarillo’s latest embarrassment — those “estimated” water use bills — might be cause to rethink a view that the city is well-run.

It’s one of those “on one hand this, but on the other hand that” kind of assessments.

On the one hand, you have a city with a superb bond rating. It has relatively low debt. It asks residents to pay a mere pittance in property tax to fund municipal government. It has a fine park system. Its police department is a mostly progressive operation that runs well most of the time. Firefighters answer the bell quickly.

On the other hand, there’s a series of misfires that makes me wonder: Can’t they shoot straight down there? The city hired a traffic engineer who, it turned out, had been fired from his previous job because of serious malfeasance. The police department didn’t alert residents that a rapist was on the loose for several days. The city animal control department had to be reformed, renamed and reorganized after it was revealed that animals were being euthanized in a less-than-humane manner.

Now we have perhaps the most ridiculous development of all: The city “estimated” water bills without reading residents’ meters, in some instances assessing bills about six times the normal amount usually billed monthly. The city had fired eight of its 11 water meter-readers — on the same day.

Does the juxtaposition — the good financial performance measured against these mistakes — make sense?

Well, if you think about it, one really doesn’t have anything to do with the other. The city still is in solid fiscal shape. Its financial house is in order; the city provides essential services to the residents who pay for them. All that good news, though, gets overtaken by the nonsense that bubbles up from time to time.

Overlaid across all of this is the city’s effort to revamp its downtown district.

I remain committed to the concept that’s been presented. I still believe it’ll work. The ballpark, the hotel, the parking garage all make sense when you consider the sequence of what the city is planning. The financing of this project also makes sense — and it means next to zero impact on residential property taxpayers.

The competence issue — and the lingering doubts arising from these series of hiccups, such as the latest one involving the weird water billing SNAFU — is darkening my optimism.

It hasn’t been snuffed out. But, man, the doubts are building.




Bless those firefighters

I have great respect for firefighters … and police officers, too.

But this post is about Amarillo’s firefighters, who answer the alarm and rush to offer assistance, whether it’s putting out fires, deliver first aid to those who are stricken or assist a resident with a complicated installation.

Here’s what happened this morning.

My wife is providing child care for a little boy; he just turned 2. His parents have delivered a car seat for us to use. It’s one of those fancy-shmancy devices that requires a level of expertise neither of us possesses. It’s been a very long time since our sons were small enough to require a car seat and, indeed, when they were that small, car seats weren’t even required by law. We had them anyway, but they weren’t as complicated as this one.

Our little guy’s mommy told us we could take to a fire station and the firemen would install it.

I did. She was right. A young firefighter took about 15 minutes to install the seat in our big ol’ pickup. He walked me through the mechanics of hooking up the belts to all the fasteners tucked in the rear seat of the truck. He showed me how to cinch it tight, using my body weight to fasten the car seat snugly inside.

The other bit of good news is that we now are equipped with a car seat to haul around our granddaughter. We just have to be sure to drive the truck to see her in Allen.

Frankly, I didn’t know this service was available to residents of our city. I’m glad I know it now.

Oh, and the firefighter who assisted this morning is the father of three kids, the youngest of whom is 5. He said he’s on the “downward side” of needing to use these high-tech car seats.

His experience came in handy this morning. Thank you for the assistance, young man — and thanks for all you and your colleagues do to make our city safe.


Heroes wear firefighter uniforms

Popular culture is fond of bandying about the word “hero.”

We ascribe that title to athletes and to movie stars who play heroic figures on the big screen.

One of our communities caught fire in recent days. Fritch, in Hutchinson County, has been battling wildfires. You want a definition of a real hero? Look to the people who plunge into the fire to battle it face to face.

We know all this, of course. We know about the heroism our firefighters exhibit all the time. The same can be said of police officers, who answer calls that should be “routine,” but too often prove to be anything but.

Today, let’s single out the firefighters for hero recognition.

I ran into one of them just yesterday. He was mowing a lawn two doors west of where my wife and I live. I walked over just to visit with him and to get a price on lawn mowing services. He said he’s been cutting grass part time for 22 years. His real job? He’s an Amarillo firefighter stationed at the River Road station just north of Thompson Park.

The fellow has had his hands full in recent days, battling the Fritch fire along with firefighters from other departments all across the northern Panhandle.

It’s good to understand, too, that those rural firefighters — the folks who work in our small farming and ranching communities — are volunteers who don’t get paid to suit up and plunge into the inferno.

The 9/11 tragedy nearly 13 years ago educated many Americans about the heroism our firefighters exhibit. Remember the stories of those individuals running upstairs into the Twin Towers to rescue those who were trapped?

Does that define a hero? You bet it does.

The fire season has arrived a bit early this year. Our firefighters are going have a busy time of it, particularly if the region remains as dry as it’s been.

They will put their lives on the line as they fight to protect people from the flames. They are heroes who should make us proud.

Godspeed, y’all.

Thanks for all you do, Amarillo firefighters

You know … there are times when you get to witness your tax money at work and you come away quite satisfied with what you see.

Such an event occurred Thursday afternoon at the Canyons Retirement Community. My wife and I — not to mention the residents and the staff at the place — are grateful for the professionalism demonstrated by the firemen who came to assist.

I stopped for a brief visit around 1 p.m. with my mother-in-law, who lives at the Canyons. Upon walking into the lobby, I detected a faint smoky order. I went to her apartment and said, “I think I smell smoke.” We both went into the hall and, yep, sure enough, the smell had gotten a bit stronger. “I’m going to tell the manager about this,” is said. I walked back into the hall and was stunned at the sight of smoke so thick you couldn’t see down the hall.

I then blurted out a bad word and told my mother-in-law, “We’re getting the hell out of here!” I plopped her into her wheelchair and we raced away from the smoke and found a fire exit. We went outside and then let the door slam shut behind us. We’re locked out. But hey, we’re safe.

The firefighters arrived seconds later. Two ladder trucks came, along with an ambulance. The police arrived. The fire — which began in the apartment next to my mother-in-law’s apartment — was extinguished immediately.

There we sat. I called my wife to tell her what had happened. “Is Mom OK?” she asked. Yes. She’s just fine. We were actually joking about the incident, although I’m quite sure the woman who lived next door to my mother-in-law wasn’t laughing. I would call her several times to keep her advised. We had only one vehicle available at the moment, so it was a little while before I was able to get her and bring her to the Canyons to be with her mother.

The rest of the residents were gathered in the lobby or on the front patio. I couldn’t get Mom down the stairs, we had to sit for quite some time. The sprinkler system went off and had flooded the hallway with about 2 inches of water, some of which seeped into residents’ apartments. The firemen would have to give us the all-clear before we could get her back.

I found the manager. “Is your mother-in-law OK?” she asked. Yep. “Where is she?” On the fire escape. “I’ll get some firemen to take her downstairs,” she said. “How will they do that?” I asked. She said they’d carry her if they need to. I laughed out loud. I told my mother-in-law what might occur. We both howled at the prospect of some brawny firemen slinging her over his shoulder like a sack of spuds. It didn’t happen. They got an elevator to work at the other end of the building. The smoke had cleared and we wheeled her to the elevator and she joined her friends in the dining room.

OK, here’s the moral of this tale. The firefighters reacted tremendously. I am grateful for the courtesy they extended to the residents who peppered them with questions. They were anxious to get into their apartments. The firemen understood that and showed extraordinary patience with the residents.

The carpet cleaners came and sucked the water up with some power vacuums. The place was secured. And by 7 p.m., almost everyone had returned to where the live — except the lady who’s cooking fire started the whole thing.

Thanks, Amarillo Fire Department. You guys did well.