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Each month leading up to The Woodlands 50th Anniversary celebration, content is created to honor the past, present and future of our community. For the month of May, public safety will be highlighted. 

By Laura Landsbaum

With eight stations and 42 personnel on duty at any time, The Woodlands Fire Department is well positioned to provide emergency services throughout the area. A firefighter’s day is dictated by the calls that are received. When they are not out on a call, firefighters are training or maintaining equipment and the station.

“Most of the training is EMS,” The Woodlands Fire Department’s Chris Polnick says. “We provide what’s called ALS, advanced life support. We have cardiac monitors on all the trucks, all frontline cardiac medications on the truck.

“And with that comes a lot of training. Our minimum staffing requires a paramedic on every truck. The paramedic — we might intubate. We might use the cardiac monitor to do the fibrillation.”

Polnick considers the fire station to be his home during a 48-hour shift, which is standard.

“We cook, we clean, we shower,” Polnick says. “It’s our house. And it operates similarly to being at home. You show up in the morning. We’re doing inventory checks on the trucks first thing. We make sure everything works, make sure everything’s there.

“The crew that’s leaving tells us what they did and maybe something’s broken or something’s missing and let us know.”

Firefighters respond to several situations in The Woodlands. According to Polnick, house fires are a very small percentage of calls that come in. Spring time is especially busy, but not for reasons you’d expect. Surprisingly, apparently frogs sound like puppies stuck in storm drains.

Polnick thinks a “frogs, not dogs” campaign would go a long way. Croaking frogs have fooled many a Woodlands resident, and Polnick admits to being fooled himself sometimes.

Firefighters in The Woodlands do a lot of training to be ready for their life saving work. (Courtesy The Woodlands Township)

When a call does come in to the station, the clock starts ticking.

Chute time is how firefighters gauge the time from receiving that incoming call to the time they leave the station. During the day, the goal time is one minute. At night, that time doubles to two minutes. Firefighters are actually awakened by ever brightening LED lights and an increasingly strident tone — not the stereotypical clanging bell.

“There’s been so many times you pull in the back of the station, just to open the front door and go on a call,” Polnick says. “We might grab lunch on the way back, head back, sit at the table, open our lunch and get a call.”

Medical calls are the most common call that the station gets, and the team makes sure the truck is ready to respond.

With The Woodlands approaching its milestone 50th anniversary (a grand celebration is set for October 18 with a free Lyle Lovett concert presented by Howard Hughes at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion), The Woodlands Fire Department is growing to meet the community’s current and future needs too. The department has ordered five new fire trucks for its fleet and a new 23,000-square-foot fire station is in the works (with a projected June groundbreaking).

Work Week Duties

“Every day we do a daily EMS check,” Polnick says. “But on Tuesdays it is down to every expiration date, down to every pill. If we find one that’s going to expire next month we’re responsible for putting in a refill order.”

Equipment checks are also a big part of a work week for firefighters.

“So Tuesday is apparatus day,” Polnick says. “And that’s where not only do we inventory the truck, run every gas engine and run any electric tool. Any sort of rechargeable batteries are recharged. There’s a lot of stuff, nearly 1000 items of EMS equipment on a truck.”

Firefighters also have “chores” to do, just like at home.

“Thursdays, it’s spring cleaning of the fire station.” Polnick says. “Bleach the showers, kitchen, the stove gets taken apart. The bays get mucked. Spiderwebs get knocked off the ceilings. Any storage rooms get reorganized, things like that.” 

The Woodlands Fire Department welcomes the public in to see its stations and trucks at events like Touch-a-Truck. (Courtesy The Woodlands Township)

Fire stations in The Woodlands are open for visitors as well — and the firefighters that staff them are happy to visit, as time permits. Touch-a-Truck events are put on by The Woodlands Township throughout the year, giving the public a chance to see The Woodlands fire equipment up close. Polnick notes that community events are excellent opportunities for everyone, something that firefighters enjoy.


Many thanks to The Woodlands 50th Anniversary Sponsors:

FOUNDING – Howard Hughes

PRODUCER – The Woodlands Township

LEGACY – Woodforest National Bank

HERITAGE – Waste Connections Inc.

GOLD – Entergy Texas, Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital

SILVER – SVN/JBeard Real Estate, The John Cooper School