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Richards VFD lands helipad

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Winston Churchill once said, “we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Richards Volunteer Fire Department puts the quote in action making huge strides to become a strong, stable resource in the community.

During their weekly trainings, Thursdays at 6 p.m. at the station, volunteers learn everything from medical response to directing traffic. Their focus on education ensures each member is adequately prepared to be an asset to Grimes County residents when responding to calls of all nature.

Richards VFD Fire Chief Cort Norwood, has over 25 years of volunteer firefighting experience. “I’ve volunteered since I was in high school,” he said. “I like working with and serving the people I live by.” Currently the department has 10 members.

There is a need for a permanent landing area for medical helicopters and a staging area for ambulances and paramedics in the Richards community. In the past the department utilized the Richards Independent School District baseball field as a landing zone, but new construction on campus will hinder using the field.

“We monitor a lot of safety concerns and know when an action is needed,” explained Norwood. According to Norwood there is an average of 20 life-flight landings per year. The department agreed and began planning a permanent landing zone in their own backyard.

There is a park including a basketball court on the corner of Trinity Street and Magnolia Drive, adjacent to the fire station, that Norwood said is underutilized. The swings and merry-go-round were relocated to the left of the station facing Trinity Street so children in the community will still have a place to play. The basketball court has now been repurposed into a landing zone for life-flights with a medical staging zone nearby.

Richards VFD purchased dirt and rock to stabilize the area to the left of the landing zone. They will utilize portable lighting and markers for easy location of the landing zone, marking off restricted areas. “We can land life-flight anywhere in the county with our portable set up, but this will be our official landing site,” explained Norwood.

The volunteers were trained on the landing zone including mapping with GPS coordinates. They were also trained on how to transport medical staff to a scene, which vehicles to use, how to ensure quick and safe transportation when needed, and guiding other response teams in successfully.

While the group still needs additional equipment, such as a tanker, to be at their utmost strength when responding to calls, they also focus on smaller attainable goals like the landing zone to benefit the community.

COVID-19 has affected many departments including Richards VFD. With higher numbers across the state, RVFD needs more volunteers. Norwood stated some counties are facing limited resources for their response teams, and response times for ambulances in some areas may be 40-minutes or longer. If there aren’t enough staff, the need for paramedics and other personnel have to be shared between counties. With the changes that RVFD is making their hope is to be a stronger point of assistance to the county and the community.

“If we learn, they learn,” Norwood stressed during the meeting. Weekly trainings contain a lot of information for the volunteers to process, and the group understands practice makes perfect. They run through normal response scenarios, equipment operation and medical trainings weekly. In September they will also simulate helipad operations for life-lights working with the group Air Med12, practicing life-flight procedures and medic staging areas at the RVFD station.

If you would like more information on volunteering or observing the Richards VFD, call 936-851-2211, or email richardsfiredept@gmail.com or via Facebook at Richards Volunteer Fire Department.