Austin Fire Department gains 14 veteran firefighters with ESD 4 merger

Austin Fire Department graduates on Oct. 27, 2017 (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)
Austin Fire Department graduates on Oct. 27, 2017 (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Fire Department graduated another class of firefighters, Friday. But this group is more experienced than most.

The newly inducted members already have years of experience. They used to work for Travis County’s Emergency Services District 4, just outside of Austin. But the 14 firefighters underwent additional training because of a merger with the Austin Fire Department.

“I feel really good to be part of the bigger picture,” probationary firefighter Paul Benjamin said. “It’s just a bigger department with more resources. It’s better established.”

Benjamin previously worked at ESD 4’s fire station for 12 years and said the merger solves problems not only for himself, but the community as a whole.

“Longevity and job security in the county is pretty uncertain just because as the city grows unfortunately the county shrinks,” Benjamin said. “And that’s kind of where the big problem was. I think this merger is a solution to that for the citizens, for the firefighters, for the whole community.”

The merger grants ESD 4 access to more resources. Previously, the district only had two fire stations.

“What it means for the citizens that are paying taxes in the District 4 is that they’ll have the full force of the Austin Fire Department,” AFD Division Chief Palmer Buck said. “That means 48 stations, 1,000 people strong, responding to their emergencies.”

Austin Mayor Steve Adler stopped by the event to congratulate the new graduates on their accomplishments.

Cadet Class 122 will officially begin serving as part of the Austin Fire Department this weekend.

“They’re veteran firefighters, but they’ll be brand new Austin firefighters starting Sunday as well,” Buck said.

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