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I know this will story sound just like one of those fake articles by the folks at Call The Cops, but it isn't. It also isn't April Fools, so I am going to have to believe what I am reading from multiple news reports out of Kilgore, Texas last week. Financial struggles at the Meadowbrook Golf Course has city leaders ditching the management company that was running the facility and putting it under the control of the City of Kilgore Fire Department.
"The city is subsidizing several thousand dollars every year on this. We're fortunate enough as a fire department to be able to enhance and come out and assist the current staff," says Kilgore Fire Chief Johnny Bellows.
On a voluntary basis, firefighters will staff the course clubhouse.
"We're here to make this course run a little bit better and more efficiently. If the people we bring out to the course are needed, we're able to send them out also. They'll be here two at a time, and then they rotate during the day," Bellows says.
In two man shifts, on-duty firefighters will be assigned to Meadowbrook, but not to perform traditional firefighter duties.
"We'll do maintenance work, we'll help out with the chef if we need to serve tables, wait tables, help out with the janitorial services. We do not in any way jeopardize the safety or our response to the community," says Bellows.
For firefighters, its not bad duty.
"We are so excited about it, to be able to come out and intermingle with the community and have the community see us, we're really looking forward to it," says Kilgore firefighter Kelly Vestal.
Fire Chief Johnny Bellows said he and the two other highest ranking chiefs will have their offices at the former country club. Adding three firefighters to the department will allow a crew to also make Meadowbrook its base, he said.
“We actually will be pulling them from the stations,” Bellows said. “In a way, we can almost call this Station 4.”
Except, instead of reading, sleeping or otherwise occupying themselves between emergency calls, the Meadowbrook fire crews will help in the restaurant or where needed, Bellows said.
“If we need to help clean the restaurant and set the tables, we’ll do that,” he said. “Maybe we’ll take orders. I’m excited. Our firefighters are excited. And they definitely are going to have smiles on their faces and greet people that come out to the course.”
The club restaurant might undergo the most significant change. Historically a fine dining venue, it will be renamed the Firehouse Bar & Grill and take on a sports bar atmosphere, Sellers said. Expect three-alarm chili, he added.
The two firefighters, per shift, will be pulled from the fire department’s on-duty backup response team to serve as wait-staff and pro-shop attendants.
“This will not impact response times,” (Kilgore City Manager Scott) Sellers noted.
Assigned to the back-up response team, the two firefighters will only need to respond to incidents if an emergency requires more manpower than Kilgore’s three fire stations can field at a given time. When necessary, the pair will leave the golf course to assist the rest of the department’s complement of firefighters, their Meadowbrook duties filled temporarily by either KFD administrative staffers (newlyhoused at the course) or other personnel at the facility.
“The administrative fire staff currently at City Hall, they will be moving to the golf course, which will provide three bodies up there at any given time to assist,” Sellers explained. “This is a great, great utilization of the resource of our firefighters who are an asset to the city, to the community. They don’t have to be stationed at any one place, per se, while they’re waiting for that fire to occur. They can be anywhere – they might as well be at the course helping.