Sabine Fire Chief Richard Sisk described 2017 as “awesome” and has equally high expectation for 2018.
During the last year, Sisk said, the department added a 5,000-gallon tanker to its fleet.
The acquisition of the tanker, replacing a 1985 engine, helped improve the volunteer department’s Insurance Services Office rating. The improved classifications mean homeowners in the Gregg County ESD No. 2 coverage area might save money on insurance premiums.
Funding from the ESD and Gregg County helped fund those assets, which in turn helps the department serve its community and lower its ISO rating.
In addition to the tanker, SFD has upgraded its hand tool equipment, repaired pumps and serviced trucks as needed. SFD also purchased a drone equipped with an infrared camera to help in search and rescue situations and to help area departments and agencies when requested.
“We had a spectacular year,” Sisk said.
Six firefighters received swift water rescue training, which is new to the department. SFD has also invested in a rescue boat and the necessary water rescue equipment – wet suits and rescue tools – to respond to swift water rescue situations.
Sisk said he looks forward to new training opportunities in 2018 as the department partners with the Kilgore College Fire Academy for additional instruction.
“That’s opened some doors for volunteer fire departments, especially us, to advance our fire training,” he said, noting training was already scheduled for January.
The partnership will allow SFD firefighters to participate in live fire training, which was not available to them before. The firefighters will also have access to the expertise Fire Academy Director Mike Simmons and Lead Instructor Mike Fennel bring.
“It’s nice to have that partnership here at home and not to have to send firefighters once a year to Texas A&M when we have this resource right here,” Sisk said. “It’s advancing our capabilities and advancing our fire tactics, and helping serve our community better. I think 2018 is going to be a great year as well.”
With marked growth in the Liberty City area, Sisk said, residential expansion means an increase in businesses in the area will follow. This brings with it new challenges for the firefighters, meaning they will need more training on fighting fires in commercial structures.
“Hazards and dangers expand,” he said. “It’s a little different. There are a lot more safety elements. We’re looking to advance those capabilities, too.”
With changes in Kilgore Fire Department’s administration – Mark Henderson’s promotion to assistant chief – and Gladewater Fire Department’s search for a new chief, Sisk said he is looking forward to continuing those partnerships and mutual aid relationships, seeing what new ideas emerge.
“There’s definitely some positive opportunities there as well,” Sisk said.
During the new year and continuing over the next few years, Sisk said, he hopes to continue upgrades to the department’s fire station.
“It’s nice to have a board that is considering options to help us take care of infrastructure, the fire department’s equipment and buildings,” he said. “Those things are what’s going to help us sustain our capabilities and be able to do our job.”
The five-member Gregg County ESD No. 2 board is “forward looking,” Sisk said. “I’m happy to be chief in a fire department that has a fire department board and an ESD board that is looking forward at what’s beyond the horizon. There’s definitely a lot of positive stuff on the horizon. The future looks great. I’m just very blessed, very happy to be fire chief in Sabine Fire Department and in the Liberty City community.”