The Smithville Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) soon will purchase new emergency response equipment, thanks to a $19,526 community development grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority and City of Smithville.
The Community Development Partnership Program grant, along with more than $4,800 in matching funds, will allow Smithville VFD to purchase a swift-water rescue boat, motor and trailer. The new boat will replace the department's two aging boats, which are unreliable and in constant need of repair.
"As chief, I am excited for the department I love and the town I grew up in," said James Elam, Smithville VFD fire chief. "I have been a Smithville volunteer firefighter for almost 20 years, and it's a great feeling to receive new equipment. There is no better way to give back to my community than in response and service. Thanks to LCRA and the city, we can perform water rescues more effectively."
During the past three years, the Smithville area has seen four major floods and a hurricane. Because the department's boats are unreliable, the fire department often has to rely on other agencies for help responding to water rescues, which adds to response time. During Hurricane Harvey, for instance, a family was trapped in their home until a rescue boat could be hauled in from out of town.
"My focus is on having updated equipment, which is critical to safely responding to water emergencies," Elam said. "This new boat will benefit the community in the event of evacuations. This gift will make a huge difference in our ability to respond."
Smithville VFD helps protect about 6,600 residents in its emergency response area of about 191 square miles, which includes portions of Bastrop and Lee counties. In addition to serving the City of Smithville, the department also provides mutual aid to fire departments in Heart of Pines and La Grange.
The community grant is one of a number of grants recently awarded through LCRA's Community Development Partnership Program. The program provides economic development and community assistance grants to cities, counties, volunteer fire departments, regional development councils and other nonprofit organizations in LCRA's wholesale electric and water service areas. The program is part of LCRA's effort to give back to the communities it serves. The City of Smithville is one of LCRA's wholesale electric customers and a partner in the grant program.
Applications for the next round of grants will be accepted July 1-July 31. More information is available at lcra.org/cdpp.
The Lower Colorado River Authority serves customers and communities throughout Texas by managing the lower Colorado River; generating and transmitting electric power; ensuring a clean, reliable water supply; and offering access to nature at more than 40 parks, recreation areas and river access sites along the Texas Colorado River, from the Hill Country to the Gulf Coast. LCRA and its employees are committed to enhancing the lives of Texans through water stewardship, energy and community services. LCRA was created by the Texas Legislature in 1934. For more information, visit