Fire chiefs, Sugar Land and Missouri City

Sugar Land Fire Chief Juan Adame began his career as a firefighter for the Corpus Christi Fire Department in 1973 after serving in the Navy. Adame was appointed fire chief in Corpus Christi in 1988 and served until 2006.

“One of my proudest moments was in January 1988, when I was appointed chief of the Corpus Christi Fire Department with my family around me,” he said.

After leaving the CCFD in 2006, Adame joined the Austin Fire Department, where he served as its chief until 2008.

Adame was appointed by the city of Sugar Land as its interim fire chief in April 2009 and was appointed as the city’s full-time fire chief in November 2010.

Missouri City Fire Chief Russell Sander began his firefighting career with the Taylor Fire Department in 1988, where he served as a lieutenant. Sander also worked for the Georgetown Fire Department, where he was promoted to lieutenant and served as the department’s training officer.

Sander began his career with the Missouri City Fire Department in 2003 as its assistant fire chief. In 2006 he was appointed as the city’s fire chief.

“I am really proud of how the members of the fire department carry out their duties every day,” he said. “Everyone works hard to ensure we are providing the best service to our citizens.”

Fire chiefs, Sugar Land and Missouri CityJuan Adame, Sugar Land fire chief
How have you seen Sugar Land grow since you joined SLFD?

In the short amount of time that I have been [in Sugar Land], the city has experienced continuous growth. Constellation Field, major hospital expansions, Fire Station No. 7 and the [Smart Financial Centre] are just some of the major additions to the city.

How has the fire department addressed the growth in the city?

The fire marshal’s office is where every project starts, so they can ensure that all fire codes are adhered to. These past five years, the fire department has opened up Fire Station No. 7 and built a brand-new Fire Station No. 1 to meet the needs of the community.

The city established its own EMS  program in January. How has the program grown since then?

Sugar Land Fire-EMS provides excellent pre-hospital care to our citizens. The response times [of ambulances in the city] have improved to an average of just over six minutes.

[The fire department] has 35 paramedics and five ambulances in its fleet.

What are some challenges facing the fire department?

[One of the biggest challenges is] recruiting. It is a challenge to hire firefighter paramedics. Another challenge is [having] diversity in the fire [department staff].

How are those challenges being addressed?

Our planning and development division continuously works with our human resources department to research new hiring strategies [to meet the challenges we face].

Fire chiefs, Sugar Land and Missouri CityRussell Sander, Missouri City fire chief
How have you seen Missouri City grow since you joined the fire department?

Over the years Missouri City has grown significantly. Since I began working here, Missouri City’s population has increased approximately 45 percent, including the areas outside of the city that the department serves. The majority of residential growth has been in the master-planned communities of Sienna Plantation and Riverstone. In addition, the commercial areas have grown, and the retail development continues to move south on Hwy. 6 toward the Fort Bend Toll Road.

Additionally, the growth has affected the fire department through an increase of calls for service. Since 2003 the department has experienced a 60 percent increase in calls for service.

How has the fire department addressed the growth?

The department addresses the growth through strategic planning and unique means. For example, the fire marshal’s office addresses the commercial growth through fire prevention by the enforcement of fire and life-safety codes on all new development. Through the efforts of the fire marshal’s office, fire inspectors make each building safer for occupants by requiring the installation of safety systems such as fire sprinklers. In addition, the department has long-range plans to answer the increased demands on services. Plans exist for additional fire stations and increasing the fire department resources to handle the projected demands.

What is the status of opening a sixth station? How much would it cost, and when would it open? 

The citizens approved the bonds for Fire Station No. 6 in 2014. The city is working to secure a site for the station based on the department’s Fire Station Location Study. It will most likely be located in the area of Lake Olympia and Vicksburg boulevards. The station would not open until sometime after 2020, and the projected cost of the station and equipment is $5 million.

What are some challenges facing the fire department?

Keeping up with the growth coupled with the associated increase in demands for services while providing the services the citizens expect is the primary challenge we face. As the city grows, our response times increase and there are more calls that happen simultaneously. In addition, our mutual-aid partners are experiencing an increase demands for service, too. In turn, they are not available to assist us on structure fires or other times when we need help. Ultimately, the department needs to increase our resources to become more self-reliant and to improve our response times to emergency calls.

Finally, rapidly changing technologies require the firefighters to continually train in order to be prepared.

How are those challenges being addressed?

The department addresses these challenges through our strategic plan that is closely aligned with the city’s strategic plan. Based on this plan and other plans, we work to increase our services through the annual budgeting process. In addition, we continually research for alternate ways to provide services, such as using smaller vehicles for medical responses and modifying the fire inspector’s schedule to meet the needs of commercial development. We also work with our response partners and area fire departments to develop better ways to handle the increased demands on all of our services.

By Connor Hyde
Connor covers Sugar Land and Missouri City businesses, Fort Bend ISD, city government and Fort Bend County. He joined Community Impact Newspaper in December 2014 as the Sugar Land | Missouri City reporter.


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