Eighteen years ago the tragic series of coordinated attacks occurred against the U.S. and Wednesday, the East Parker County Chamber of Commerce dedicated its program to honoring first responders.
“On Sept. 11, there were eight EMTs, 60 police officers, 343 firefighters and 2,997 civilians that lost their lives. Thank you all very much for what you do,” EPCCC President and CEO Lisa Flowers said. “You run in when everybody else is running out. I don’t know how you all do it, it’s just amazing, and we appreciate each and every one of you for what you do.”
A video was shown with footage from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as well as footage from the Willow Park Police and Fire departments, the Parker County Sheriff’s Office and photos of other first responder departments in the county.
WP Detective Sgt. Jaclin Ramirez discussed a tough call that came through the department in October 2017 when a little girl was accidentally run over by a family member.
“It was an accident and she was 8-years-old at the time and a family member didn’t see her and accidentally ran her over, and she did pass away from that. I knew that little girl since she was 2 years old, I knew the family pretty well so that was a little harder for ones like me that knew her. One of the other officers on scene knew her pretty well also, so you learn to process it and you can’t take it home with you,” Ramirez said. “It doesn’t mean you don’t care about somebody, you just have to learn to process it and you don’t internalize it because that’s where you start getting into PTSD issues and the suicide rate of officers is very high. I love my job, I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t love it.”
WP Fire Chief Mike LeNoir discussed the large grass fire that broke out in 2018.
“I think our biggest one was our large grass fire that we had here in the city, 2,156 acres worth. We had fire all over the place, very high winds, we alone had our A-shift crew get trapped within the grass fire and we had to go and have them pulled out before the fire got too close,” LeNoir said. “That was one of our close calls that sticks with me. We love protecting our community, it’s about helping people.”
Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler discussed the area they cover with a limited amount of units.
“Parker County is actually 910 square miles and it amounts to about 65,000 people that have a municipal police department, so that puts 95,000 people for the sheriff’s office to deal with in the county. The total department is 132 people, now 92 of those are sworn-in officers and I have seven divisions. We want to preserve country living and the development we need it, as long as it’s done correct, but it’s hard for us because we’re spread so thin,” Fowler said. “As the population grows, obviously we’re going to need more people. On any given day I’ve got about six and if I’m lucky seven units running, that’s not a lot.”
Fowler said dispatch received more than 40,000 calls last year and has 17 dispatchers on staff with three to four working at the same time.
“Law enforcement is a tough job and it’s nice to know that we’re appreciated,” Fowler said. “Believe me, Parker County does appreciate its law enforcement and I’m very happy about that.”
County businesses donated money to gift cards that were distributed to each first responding agency.