AUSTIN (Covering Katy News)—As a longtime firefighter, Katy Fire Chief Russell Wilson is used to getting urgent telephone calls.
This week, Wilson is attending the Texas Association of Fire Chiefs Executive Conference in Austin. On Monday he got another call, this one from his boss: Mayor Chuck Brawner.
Brawner had good news: the association named Wilson its Fire Chief of the Year.
“He had no clue this was going to happen,” Brawner said at Monday night’s city council meeting at city hall. Brawner said that Wilson’s peers from around the state selected Wilson for the award.
The association is headquartered in Austin. It enables information sharing and legislative involvement while working to promote ethical and professional standards for firefighters.
Wilson has had a busy agenda since becoming Katy’s fire chief in 2016. He has played a key role on several issues as the fire department continues its evolution into a full-time, professional fire department.
The most obvious is the building of a second fire station. Ground has been broken on it, after several unexpected delays, and is set to open later this year. The new station will be built at Bell Patna Drive and Katy Mills Circle, near Katy Mills Mall. It will be a three-bay, approximately 14,000 square-foot structure.
Wilson was involved in reviewing and making changes to the plan. One change ensures that the emergency vehicles will come out of the bay and onto Bell Patna Drive, which Wilson said would be safer than if they came out on Katy Mills Circle, which was the original plan.
The other change involves the configuration of the firefighters’ locker rooms. Instead of one large room, Wilson said several smaller rooms are being built so the men and women firefighters have separate areas to change clothes.
To staff the station, Wilson supervised the city’s application for a SAFER (for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The city received the grant, worth approximately $2.2 million, and is using it to hire and train new firefighters.
The city has also purchased new equipment, such as a Computer Aided Dispatch system, which Brawner said meets National Fire Protection Association standards. Brawner said the new technology meets National Fire Protection Association standards. It enables more details, and mapping, on emergency calls received. It also improves dispatch and response time.
Meanwhile, the fire department has memorandums of agreement with other governmental entities, such as Harris County Emergency Services District 48, for mutual aid support in emergencies.
Wilson has also instituted a wellness program for firefighters, who because of the stress of their job are more susceptible to cancer, heart attacks, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.