By Elizabeth Varville, The Belton Journal
Every year since 1884, the Belton Fire Department has grown to be the department that it is today. According to beltontexas.gov, 30 paid firefighters and volunteer firefighters service 112 miles of Bell county for emergency medical service and 66 miles for fire protection. In addition, the department has mutual aid agreements with Central Texas Council of Governments, which serves the counties of Bell, Coryell, Lampasas, Milam, Hamilton, Mills, and San Saba. The department consists of Fire Chief Bruce Pritchard, Assistant Fire Chief Kris Morgan, Fire Caption John Stowell, Fire Lieutenants Brian Campbell, Wesley Gilbreath, Justin Porter, and Administrative Assistant Katherine Earnest.
During the year 2015, the department has experienced many changes. On Feb 12, the department added a Pierce Fire Engine at the Central Station. A Pierce Engine has many specifications that enhance a firefighter’s ability to combat a fire to include a large one-piece wraparound windshield, low offset cab steps, large front door, forward roof design, and oversized door handles.
Chief Francisco Corona retired in July from the department after three years of service and ending his firefighting career that expanded over three decades. In the month of July, the station also saw the inauguration of a new Fire Chief. Bruce Pritchard was sworn in as Chief on July 28, 2015. Before being appointed Chief, Pritchard served with the department for 25 years as a Firefighter, Paramedic, Captain, and Assistant Chief. This prompt the appointment of Kris Morgan as Assistant Fire Chief.
“It has been exciting. It is definitely a change in my routine. I did 15 years as a 24 on 48 off firefighter. It was a lifestyle change for me. There is a lot more responsibility and paperwork. It allows me to stay pretty much busy all day long, I love it,” said Assistant Fire Chief Kris Morgan. “Morale and communication has improved greatly which is a direct reflection of the Chief, I’m just here to help him,” continued Morgan.
The department also sponsored many giving-back events for the Belton community during this past year. The Santa Pal program helped 100 families and 297 children by donating Christmas presents and stocking stuffers for Belton families that were in need during the recent holidays. In addition to the Santa Pal program, the department also donated 3,852 pounds to the Helping Hands Ministry which set a record for a single source donation. The department also opened the doors to their stations by allowing families to take photographs with the fire engines and equipment to help celebrate the Christmas season.
As 2015 comes to an end, the department is very much looking forward to 2016 with the launching of several new programs to include the Fire Corps program and the Fire Prevention Outreach program.