Belton: New fire chief will inherit problems, but solutions are in the works

Belton Fire Chief Bruce Pritchard plans to retire effective Nov. 1. (City of Belton photo/file)
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) Belton Fire Chief Bruce Pritchard plans to retire effective Nov. 1, and his successor will inherit some problems with which he’s been wrestling including mold at the main station and short staffing.

“In 1990, we had one fire station, we had three firefighters on duty, and we all ran the trucks ourselves,” Pritchard remembers.

A proposed 8- to 10-percent wage increase could help keep experienced firefighters in the city, American Medical Response is taking over EMT services that the department couldn't staff, and the Central Fire Station is under renovations.

The Belton City Council is considering a budget that addresses pay issues.

“We found an area of our pay scale where we fell further behind than we should have,” city spokesman Paul Romer said.

And remediation is well underway on the main fire station.

“We've got a new A/C unit on the roof, bunk rooms have been completely redone (and) the wiring’s been done,” Romer said.

However, move-in day is still a way off.

According to officials, the chief told the city he was resigning months ago, but the announcement was delayed while a firm was hired to find his replacement.

“There’s been some bumps, but the overall ride has been a good one,” Pritchard said.

“I'm ready to let the reins loose, enjoy retirement, enjoy the grandkids.”

Strategic Government Resources, a company based in Keller, is conducting the search for a successor.

The city is setting aside nearly $25,000 for the nationwide search, which could be money well spent if they fill the boots needed for this growing city.

Pritchard has spent 32 years in the fire service, 29 of them in Belton.

He’s served as chief since July 2015 when he was named first as an interim and then as a permanent successor to former Chief Francisco Corona.