Our firefighters were already heroes, but in Texas 12 their job description has been expanding as frontline workers keep our community safe and healthy. Now, in addition to putting out fires and rescuing crash victims, Texas 12 firefighters are also testing patients for coronavirus, helping with decontaminating N-95 masks and more.
Our District is home to thousands of firefighters, with 950 firefighters in Fort Worth alone, not including volunteer fire services. Going above and beyond the call of duty is in a Texas firefighter’s DNA, and our community’s firefighters live by that creed. When the coronavirus started spreading, Fort Worth Fire Chief Jim Davis helped organize a project that has turned our city into a regional hub for the decontamination of N-95 masks. Chief Davis— also a registered nurse—helped our city partner with the Battelle Memorial Institute to turn an unused cattle barn at the Will Rogers Center into a mask decontamination site that recycles as many as 80,000 masks a day for Texas healthcare workers and first responders. Our Fort Worth Fire Department also pioneered the use of firefighters in testing nursing home patients for the coronavirus, in a program that has been so successful that the City says it is now the model for Governor Abbott’s plan to mobilize fire departments in running nursing home test sites across Texas.
Just two weeks ago, Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf visited Fort Worth to tour the Fort Worth Fire Department Training Academy, where he and I were joined by local leaders including Chief Davis to discuss how we can ensure that our fire departments are sufficiently staffed and our brave men and women have the tools and training they need. One answer is federal “SAFER” grants, which help with firefighter recruitment and retention. At our press conference outside the Fort Worth Fire Department Training Academy—built partially through SAFER grants—Acting Secretary Wolf announced the waiving of some requirements for these grants, now making them even more accessible for more fire departments across the country.
One North Texas firefighter, Chris Conner of the Bedford Fire Department, runs a nonprofit called Firefighters Against Cancer and Exposures (also known as FACES) to support firefighters paying for expensive medical treatments. Local fire captain and Vice President of the North Richland Hills Firefighters Association Adam Pendergrass also works to get fellow firefighters better PPE and more health and safety protections. When I met with Adam earlier this year, neither of us could have predicted how the importance of causes like his own, and that of FACES’, would be underlined by the coronavirus pandemic’s persistence. Far less surprising is the commitment from firefighters just like them to provide the highest level of care to our communities at all times.
Our fire departments and volunteer services are only as strong as those who are willing to risk their lives to protect ours when disaster strikes. We owe them our gratitude, especially at a time like this. I’m grateful to represent a community that appreciates our first responders as much as I do. As your representative in Washington, I will keep doing my part to support frontline workers like our firefighters and police. I know you will too.
Member of Congress